The Water of Life

To die
Of thirst
Is nigh
The worst

And saddest way
A life may end,
Since quickened clay
Cannot transcend

Its fundamental need
For fluid that’s designed
To irrigate and feed
The body and the mind.

We’ve been assured our souls are safe
And everything we’ve counted dear
Continues.  Though our shoes might chafe
As we fare forth to face our fear,

There is a well that never disappoints
The expectations which inform our toil
And tribulation.  Saving grace anoints
Both saint and sinner with the selfsame oil.


Inner Sabbaths

The One from Whom no secrets can be kept,
Who knows each detail of forgotten dreams,
Watched over me benignly while I slept;
And He from Whom no end of blessings streams

Forgave me for a multitude of slights
And graver improprieties before
I even asked.  He lets me sleep my nights
Away serenely, helping me restore

My better nature.  Such a friend is rare,
A diamond in a coal-dust universe,
An entity exceedingly aware,
A golden coin inside an empty purse.

And having said that, I am at a loss
To know how I can possibly repay
Such loving kindness, other than to cross
My heart, get down upon my knees, and pray.

Our thankfulness has never been coerced,
And surely this has always been His plan:
To let us choose when we will slake our thirst.
The sabbath, Jesus said, was made for man.


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.


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10 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Inner Sabbath is, to me, one of your best in every way.
    My congratulations ! This poem deserves a wide exposure. It shines a light on so many aspects of mercy, and of prayer.

    I am not comfortable with the meter of Water Of Life. – while I understand your motive in doing it, to me it seems contrived.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    “Inner Sabbath” is quite beautiful, and also moving.

    The pyramidal structure of “The Water of Life” is jarring at first, but the careful construction that moves from a one-stress line to a standard five-stress line is admirable, and reminds me of the shaped devotional poems from the seventeenth century.

    • J. Simon Harris

      I second everything Joseph Salemi says here. I too was reminded of 17th century “shaped devotional poems”, George Herbert’s “Easter Wings” perhaps being the most iconic.

      Wonderful work on both of these.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Joe, I didn’t think of it as a shape poem, but if I had, I suppose it would have been the shape of a cascade with ever-widening spillways.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    Sally, I didn’t do this to make you uncomfortable, I just started with a stanza in monometer, which is nearly impossible to maintain, and moved on through dimeter, trimeter, quadrameter and pentameter. And what do you understand my motive to be? Of course it was contrived — what poem is not?

  4. David Watt

    “Inner Sabbaths” is a poem of substance and beauty. The steadily increasing metrical flow evident in successive stanzas of “Water of Life” rather suits both the title, and recurrent theme.

  5. Monty

    Although I bear no affinity with the subject-matter of ‘Inner Sabbaths’, CB, that doesn’t prevent me from seeing its sheer quality. It’s immaculately written; contains exemplary grammar throughout; and effortlessly clear diction. I also admire some of the imaginative rhymes (kept/slept: coerced/thirst); not for you the undemanding task of rhyming to/do, we/me, so/go, etc. But it must be said: Given your previous offerings to SCP, I wouldn’t really expect anything less from your hand.

    Needless to say: all of the above can equally be attributed to ‘The Water . . .’, but with the added compliment of how simply and conceptually clever the Form is (hitherto unknown to me; is there a name for it?). After several readings of the words: I found myself just staring at the shape of the piece; and counting the incremental increase in beats stanza by stanza . . I was somehow held in fascination for a few moments.

    Comparatively, I wouldn’t call it a ‘shape’ poem. I’ve seen a few of those before, and I’ve generally found them to be a bit of a gimmick: with the actual poem taking second-fiddle to the shape. ‘The Water . . .’ does no such thing; and I find the shape of the piece to be neat and elegant . . and in no way impinging upon the merits of the poem.

    One wonders how a poem containing such an intricate Form as ‘The Water . .’ could be anything else BUT “contrived”? Is one to think that such a form could just naturally fall into place by itself?

    p.s. Until the end of the 3rd stanza in ‘The Water . .’ I couldn’t help thinking that the words could equally apply to a severely-neglected house-plant!

    • C.B. Anderson

      Monty, there is no name for this nonce form, just a description of its structure. Because of the difficulty of coming up a plausible monometer stanza, I will probably never write anything like it again. A “house-plant!” That’s funny.

      • Monty

        Well, if there’s no name for such a Form . . then I’m gonna suggest one: Ascendance (as in the incrementally ascending beats stanza by stanza.

        I must say that I didn’t get the feeling that you found it “difficult” to find a “plausible” monometer stanza.

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