The Winter of Our Contentment

Without the winter there would be no spring,
No snowdrops, crocus, scilla, daffodils,
Or any other bulbs that need deep chills
To send up flowers. Almost anything

Would be preferred to missing these bright blooms,
And so it is, we dream the reindeer hoof
That damages the shingles of the roof,
While we light candles in our living rooms.

We shovel snow until our muscles ache,
We clothe ourselves in insulating layers
And send the snow-plow guys our heartfelt prayers,
So they can do their job, for heaven’s sake.

Ensconced within our private domiciles,
We sing the old familiar Christmas carols,
While undergrads at school roll out the barrels
And miss the season’s point by many miles.

Come Solstice, when the days begin to lengthen,
A light divine that came into the world
Is lauded too: God’s perfect love unfurled,
A newborn child through Whom our hope shall strengthen.

And then long winter months that tax our breath
Give way to days when gardens come to flower,
Just as the Savior, in his darkest hour,
Forsaken and entombed, defeated death.



The Separate Modalities of Cognition

Both Aesthetics and Science are studied in vain
If we think with the heart and we feel with the brain.

To observe the distinction ‘tween Science and Art,
One should think with the brain and emote with the heart.

When it comes to religion, the nominal goal
Is to focus on God through the lens of the soul.

The conflation of disparate aspects of Light
Will disorder good judgment and lengthen the night.



Epistemic Conundrum

A man of faith, but not a true believer,
I walk a tightrope over an abyss
Created by a powerful deceiver
Who’s waiting patiently for me to miss

A step, and who is stationed down below
To have me in his clutches should I fall.
If what I think is more than what I know,
Perhaps I don’t know anything at all,

But still I think that not by faith alone
Shall I be saved: a heart that’s free from guile,
Adroitness, and persistence to the bone
May cause the Powers up above to smile

Upon unorthodox opinions’ source
More broadly than on those whose daily praxis
Of constant prayer has made their voices hoarse,
And spare high-flying souls from epistaxis.



Cogitation and Cognition

To think is to receive. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
A thought is a deed. —Rudolf Steiner

From out of nowhere rose a pregnant thought,
An augury of many more to come,
We dared believe, and we became distraught
On learning we were still some distance from

The living possibilities of what
It was that first enkindled our desire
To open windows that had long been shut.
We’ve seen the water, we shall see the fire,

But plights we see right now are not enough
To send us off, as pilgrims, to a shrine
Where there is neither letdown nor rebuff,
Atop an arid hill in Palestine.

It’s obvious that what we need to do
Is draw ideas forth and let them flow
Until they settle, keep those that are true
And be content to let the others go.

Considered as a gland, the human brain
Secretes a glut of thought, and it’s a kind
Of winnow, meant to separate a grain
Of truth from tailings of an errant mind.



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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23 Responses

  1. Amy Foreman

    Excellent poetry, C.B. I especially enjoyed the first two: the first, with its juxtaposition of winter/death and spring/life, and the second, for these lines:

    “Both Aesthetics and Science are studied in vain
    If we think with the heart and we feel with the brain.
    To observe the distinction ‘tween Science and Art,
    One should think with the brain and emote with the heart.”

    It’s not often I chance upon a few lines of verse that are both axiomatic and musically catchy! But these I can definitely imagine quoting in everyday conversation. (I will try to remember to give you credit when I do . . .)

    • C.B. Anderson

      Thank you, Amy. You may credit me if you like, but no one will have the slightest idea who I am.

  2. James A. Tweedie

    C.B. You touch on themes of heart and soul in contrast with mind and matter and how we experience and understand life as both feeling and thought, as emotion and reason, as science and faith. These are themes that I recall exploring repeatedly in my earliest, unsophisticated and unpolished attempts at poetry way back when I was in high school. You raise profound questions in self-examination and offer conclusions (some tentative) reached through years of filtering it all through your cranial “gland.” In short, good stuff which, in a way, represents a rationalist C.B. version of confessionalist poetry (insofar as you let us into your mind and offer us a glimpse into your still-somewhat-masked soul and the “man of faith, yet not a true believer” that you are).

    Your words remind me of the man healed by Jesus who said, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” And, also, the quixotic conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, “When they saw (the risen Jesus), they worshiped him; but some doubted.” All in all, like I said, “Good stuff” and well expressed.

    Although I usually shy away from making suggestions I will be bold to suggest that “While lighting candles in our living rooms” and “On learning we are still some distance from” would improve your otherwise perfect rhythm.

    I only wish I lived close enough to discuss it all with you in person over an endlessly refillable cup of coffee!

    • C.B. Anderson

      James, the triumvirate (as expounded by Steiner) is feeling, thinking AND willing, but one can only address so much in a short poem. I greatly appreciate your suggestions, because they come from someone who clearly takes great pains to polish every element of his own work. I agree that “While lighting candles …” is rhythmically superior in that the stresses are more definite and thus do not require the reader to impose the meter on a more natural way of enunciating, but syntactically that would mean that a reindeer hoof is somehow lighting candles. I agree completely about your second suggestion — keeping everything in the present tense is a good idea. However, as I compare my original manuscript, I notice that “become” (perhaps a typo in the submission) is actually “became.” (Evan, if he is reading this, might kindly alter the published text so that the verbal tenses are in agreement; Past tense, I think: “became” and “were.”)

      Your last short paragraph hits the nail on the head, because this is exactly the kind of discussion I would like to partake of on a regular basis. But, please, if you don’t mind, I would prefer white tea to coffee. I’ll bring my own, if necessary.

  3. T.M.

    C. B.:

    I like all these poems, not just because I like thinking about thinking, but I like the careful attention to rhythm, rhyme, and word placement that your work evidences. I would be interested in your elaborating on the thought that you are “a man of faith, but not a true believer”. This stanza gets my hearty “Amen”:

    It’s obvious that what we need to do
    Is draw ideas forth and let them flow
    Until they settle, keep those that are true
    And be content to let the others go.

    Thanks for these thoughtful, faithful pieces.

    T. M.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Dear T.M., I thank you for the compliments, and I will try to elaborate on my thoughts underlying that particular poem.

      For a long time I have wondered why the distinction between faith and belief is made so little of. For me, faith is unconditional and not subject to any particular doctrine of any specified group of believers. Faith (as someone I respected once said) is a kind of knowledge, but belief is more like hearsay. True believers have a plethora of texts to lean on, but the purely faithful can only lean on Him, inexplicably.

      If this is not enough, then please request a clarific- augment-ation, or any other kind of -ation that will fill the bill. I am always happy to oblige.

      • T.M.

        It sounds like you mean faith is genuine, rooted, and unshakable because grounded in a true knowledge of the Deity; while belief is tentative, conditional, prone to shape-shifting, and thus more oriented to the one believing than to a transcendent Reality?

  4. C.B. Anderson

    T.M., exactly, except that I might exchange “knowledge” for “experience,” which is first-hand knowledge. And let me confess here that my criticism of your rhymes in your recently published terza rima piece was unjustified. It’s not that you failed to execute perfect rhymes, but that some of them were identity rhymes, which is a hedge.

    • T. M.

      In your concept, how is such experience of divine Reality achieved?

      And I welcome your criticism as always constructive and intended to help me improve. No need to apologize.

      • C.B. Anderson

        T.M., honestly, I don’t know how it is achieved. Steiner had a method based on meditation and concentration exercises, but I don’t have the self-discipline for something like that. For me, theism became real when I pondered the fact of my own self-consciousness. This is an utter mystery as far as philosophy and science are concerned, and seems to be a (or THE) fundamental feature of the universe. After all, there is no universe for Science to study other than that which is presented to us, in our conscious minds, as qualia

      • C.B. Anderson

        T.M.: Oh, I neglected to mention in my other reply to your comment the possibility of divine grace, which is something we should probably not worry about, because it will come when it will come and there’s not much we can do about it, except pray. But if we are praying, and not deluded, then we must already have some inkling of divine reality.

  5. David Watt

    They are all poems with something meaningful to say. “The Separate Modalities of Cognition” is also my favorite. There is, within this poem, a clear truth stated in a simple, yet satisfying manner. The anapestic meter is just the right vehicle for swiftly imparting the message.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Thanks, David. It does seem a bit odd to me that the simplest of these poems is the most liked. Perhaps I should learn something from that.

  6. C.B. Anderson

    To Joe Tessitore: I’m not quite sure what you refer to, but convention demands that the Father and the Son be referred to with masculine gender pronouns. This has been accepted practice in Roman Catholicism for two thousand years. Or did you mean something else? I hope you are not one of those Gaia freaks.

    • Joe Tessitore

      I’m sure I misunderstood both your poetry and the comments discussion that followed it.

  7. Monty

    All four pieces make for perfect poetry, CB: philosophical, meaningful and thought-provoking.

    Regarding ‘Conundrum’: the way I see things, one doesn’t have to be “a true believer” in anyONE or anyTHING other than one’s self. As individuals, we only need to believe in ourselves . . nothing else. Self-belief over-rides all other beliefs.

    In S3 of the same poem: I can understand the words “a heart that’s free from guile” in the context of the sentence it’s in . . but I’m a bit puzzled at “a heart that’s free from guile, adroitness and persistence..”. Is that not self-deprecating?

    • C.B. Anderson

      Well, Monty, I kind of thought that “adroitness” and “persistence to the bone” were virtues unto themselves, of which our overlords might approve. If the poem did not express that idea, then it’s all my fault.

      • Monty

        Ah, I see what you’re saying now. I read it as “a heart that’s free from guile, adroitness and persistence” (as in a heart that’s free from all of those three traits) . . but what you’re saying is “a heart that’s free from guile, (but contains) adroitness and persistence to the bone”.

        Maybe there’s a way to better separate the two opposites of “guile” and “adroitness”, instead of just a comma.

  8. Gleb Zavlanov

    Dear Mr. Anderson,

    I love these lines from Epistemic Conundrum:

    “A man of faith, but not a true believer,
    I walk a tightrope over an abyss
    Created by a powerful deceiver
    Who’s waiting patiently for me to miss.”

    It is such a neat and elegant image that perfectly describes the seeming farce that is life.

    Thank you for writing.

    -Gleb Zavlanov

    • C.B. Anderson


      I’m not sure that life is a farce, but as often as not it is a tragedy. Nonetheless we carry on as best we can.


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