"A Still Life with Roses, Titmouse and Bumblebee" by Jean-Baptiste Robie‘Obituary’ and Other Poetry by C.B. Anderson The Society April 12, 2018 Beauty, Culture, Poetry 13 Comments Obituary Late summer, when the bumblebees begin to die, You’ll see them clinging to the petals of a flower For dear life—or at least it seems so to an eye Untrained in entomology. They’ve had their hour, Have likely reproduced authentic replicas, And now are caught in the inanimate repose They’ve earned by simply doing everything that was Expected of them. No one living really knows What colors stain the Umwelt of a bumblebee, Or what compelling fragrance draws it to the nectar Of which it drinks. The more complex reality That human beings navigate—a private sector Bound up with social threads—is plagued by states of mind Which naturally arise inside a primate brain: Perfunctory regret, and motive ill-defined; The fear of losing hope, and existential pain. Although at last you recognize how far you’ve fallen, Belated clarity does nothing to forestall What’s bound to come. Too late it is to gather pollen, But much too soon to die with flowers in the fall, ____________________to hang your laurels on a wall, ____________________to say you never lived at all. First published in Anglican Theological Review (vol. 98, no. 3, summer 2016) Olive Branches The scientists declare we’re made of atoms Inside a universe devoid of spirit, Where no extreme idealist ever fathoms The sound of falling trees with none to hear it. The truth is rather more complex than that, So let me cite a couple good examples: When Noah landed on Mount Ararat It wasn’t to collect more bio-samples Or hear the pine trees falling in the woods; And when a lover whispers to his love Endearments that beget new neighborhoods, It isn’t to commemorate the dove That bore the evidence of solid land. Unlikely as it seems, the fertile mind Engenders everything we understand, No matter how reality’s defined. C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden. Hundreds of his poems have appeared in scores of print and electronic journals out of North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Austria, Australia and India. His collection, Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder was published in 2013 by White Violet Press. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related 13 Responses Steve April 12, 2018 Really nice rhymes and subject matter in both. Congratulations! Reply C.B. Anderson April 12, 2018 Thank you, Steve. Rhyming is important to me, as I have given up on writing “free” verse for many years now. The subject matter is something I seem unable to shake, and I expect my new book of metaphysical poems to be published in the near future. Reply David Hollywood April 12, 2018 Both poems have a wonderfully separate but similar strike: stoic, fatalistic and incorporeal. Thank you. Reply C.B. Anderson April 12, 2018 David, I thank you for the comment. But “stoic?” My temperament is actually more epicurean, even Dionysian at times, but with a tinge of melancholia. In any case, you are welcome. Let me share another poem, first published in TRINACRIA, where the opinions expressed therein are not necessarily those of the author: With Disdain for Order Don’t speak to us of rectitude, Forbearance, goodness, truth, or beauty; Our one and only sacred duty Is chasing rainbows in the nude. Like little boys comparing farts Or girls pretending to be hip, You flaunt your stifling scholarship And brag about your prissy arts. Without good reason you attack us For doing as we damn well please; Perhaps you envy days we seize In honor of our patron, Bacchus. Lay down your arms and rest your legs, You arrogant pretentious fools; Defile your churches, close your schools, Take off your clothes, and tap some kegs. Your lofty plans will someday fail, Your works become a heap of rubble, So spare yourselves much needless trouble And play with us beyond the pale. Incorporeity probably works best for for the dead, but is it not indeed the case that life remains essentially mysterious? Reply David Watt April 13, 2018 I thoroughly enjoyed both poems. Lines including ‘When Noah landed on Mount Ararat It wasn’t to collect more bio-samples’ appealed as they inject a balancing element of humor into a serious subject. The eloquent truth of the final stanza in ‘Obituary’ rounds this poem off to a most satisfying close. Reply C.B. Anderson April 13, 2018 I’m glad you enjoyed them, David. Humor (or at least playful wryness) is something I find hard to avoid. If a poem does not entertain on some level, then I am not much interested in either writing it or reading it Reply James A. Tweedie April 16, 2018 C.B., It may be that humans are the only creatures who are self-aware of their impending mortality. Your tenure as a gardener qualifies you to find meaning in the waning moments in the life of a bee. However melancholy the subject may be, the specter of death holds the power to motivate us to dedicate our lives towards making the world a better place or to surrender to the self-absorbed meaninglessness of “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” I came to a conclusion similar to yours while walking in the San Gabriel Mountains during a spiritual retreat near Pasadena, California. I recorded my thoughts as follows: The Yucca plant blooms once, just once, and dies. It sees this not as some big sacrifice. How sad ‘twould be to hear death’s final call And realize I’d never bloomed at all. Or, as Hamlet framed the question, “To bee, or not to bee . . .” Reply C.B. Anderson April 16, 2018 Dear James, You got out of the poem more than I was aware of putting into it, but that isn’t all that odd or surprising — I usually don’t write poems with an outline in mind; sometimes they just happen. And, having lived in the Southwest for several years, I believe that it’s not the Yucca plant exactly, but a botanic relative known as the Century Plant, that blooms once and dies. I thought your quatrain was very good nonetheless. Reply James A. Tweedie April 17, 2018 C.B. You are, of course, correct about the Yucca producing an annual bloom and my confusing it with the Century Plant. I hope you and your poems will continue to bloom like the yucca! Ileac Burweeds April 19, 2018 The comments of your strand have prompted me to write a couple poems. The first one comes from yours and Mr. Tweedie’s comments. [In the title and line 9, Josh’ua has two syllables, in the final line three.] The Josh’ua Tree by Ileac Burweeds for C. B. Anderson The Yucca brevifolia, known as the Joshua tree, extends to many scattered sites across the Southwest scene: from California to Nevada, and Arizona too, it raises up its branches, like the prophet, to the blue. The Promised Land before you comes, the sunny, burning earth. The arid, barren desert yields its vegetating girth. The narrow leaves persist upon the endmost branching limbs, but dead, slim leaves last many years, and join the bark-like rims. The Josh’ua tree can grow up high, in sunlight stilled and gold, like Joshua in battle gear outside of Jericho. Comments and your knowledge of plants brought forth the following dodeca. Pink Evening Primrose by Ileac Burweeds Pink evening primrose blossoming, feathery, petal-opened, at dusk in northern Texas, flowers i’ the coolness. All night it’s contènt; it has a fragile eye of yellow-white; there rustling, wiggling i’ the breezes, airy-fresh, hidden, unknown. At morning, one sees them along the path or the carriageway; they stand in clusters, or lone, not aromatic or sweet, however, oh, so beautiful and blooming, as if of love; diaphanous, they die, withering each day’s generation, yet are replaced by the very stem’s conical whorls, that turn into new flowers, longing to spin i’ the air, pink ladies, showy, speciosa, dresses in a swirl, returning, drought-resistant, invasive as a weed. I hope you will keep SCP updated on your knowledge of plant-life poetica. Reply C.B. Anderson April 19, 2018 Mr. Burweeds, I’ll do what I can. This one was published in England, in Pennine Platform: The Order of Bloom The common name attached to Clerodendrum is glory-bower, which is no surprise at all to those whose prime elect agendum is growing flowers for receptive eyes to feed the empty closet of the soul. The genus boasts in excess of four hundred species, which make a most impressive whole, bit it’s as though the Grand Designer blundered, for only one is hardy in New England — trichotomum, if anybody cares to know. Perhaps the Ancients were delinquent for never having said the proper prayers that might have led some wonders from the tropics to thrive among the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and other northern hyperopics. It’s rare when error lacks a benison — a corollary of redemptive laws controlling forms like clouds with silver linings and ill-begotten winds that balance flaws by blowing in a bit of good. The twinings just out of reach, of shoot and vine and tendril, bequeath, to those below, a mute aloha, a tacit salutation which is central to everything revealed in each corolla. A house of glass, built far from fist-size stones: a habitat ordained for spending hours or days in, holy nave of temperate zones reconsecrated to impending flowers. See what you made me do? Reply Catherine August 28, 2018 Dear C.B, I do believe that I have come across a poem of yours called John Barleycorn, John Courage. However, I cannot find the publish date. Would you be able to supply me with is information. Cheers Catherine. Reply C.B. Anderson August 28, 2018 Dear Catherine (whoever you are), This poem was submitted to a contest sponsored by Edge City Review (a long defunct journal of formalist poety) at least ten years ago (probably when John Kerry was running for President). It was never published (as far as I know), though it might have appeared at The Hypertexts as part of Michael Burch’s periodic publication of a selection of timeless political poems. I just can’t remember. The poem was second runner-up in that contest, and I am astounded that you came across it. If you can tell me where you saw it, I would be very interested to have that information. If you can’t reach me here, then try me at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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