Thursday, April 7, 2011


by Richard Baldwin Cook, great-nephew

You could have stayed and run your father’s store.
But John said, you’re not too young for the ranks.
Your Paw was pleased his boy would give what for,
To Abe who’d free the niggers with his yanks.

Oh! Willie, boy, why did you want to go?
Be nice, a rowdy summer n’Mississip? 
At first light in your first fight at Shiloh,
A twelve pound ball took your leg at the hip.

Through gritted teeth you gave your one command.
By my dear Maw, you put me in the ground.
Sis’ Sue’s husband, a sound and loyal man,
Your casket sent home on a train he’d found.

Your pointless death, Willie, helped us to find,
The Cause you Lost so quick, lived in the mind.

This sonnet appears in SPLENDID LIVES and OTHERWISE: Sonnets of Remembrance (Nativa LLC 2011) available at
Copyright 2011, Richard Baldwin Cook

Drawing by artist Leah Fanning Mebane, 
- from a Cook family photo

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Bears at the Pole are killers beyond bold.
Speed, layered strength is theirs, time before time.
Patience matched only by white Arctic cold.
Ice-caved seals smelled out, crushed; a dinner fine.

Search for fat seals, never a leisured stroll.
Cubs and herself must eat vast calories.
To miss a single meal, their days will toll.
When masters of the cold, grow thin and freeze.

The seal in Arctic waters, safe and quick.
The catch, she must breathe air where jaws like steel.
In silence, waits to lift her body thick,
With fat, which can sustain one bear or seal.

Life measured at its apex, fine, by God.
Though most days spent in ice caves, then in sod.

Photo credit: Scott Schliebe / USFWS