The Onus of Vernal Duty

Surrounding fields and woods unfreeze,
The air once more is filled with light,
As springtime’s blanket amnesties
Dispel the winter’s cheerless night.

So long you’ve waited for reprieve,
That you can barely trust your senses
And therefore tend to disbelieve
The visions flashing through your lenses.

So what are you to do with all
The warmth with which you’ve now been showered
But heed the equinoctial call
To arms by which you’ve been empowered?

The gracious pardon that you boast
Is not enough to save your soul:
Step lively, lad, and man your post,
For you are merely on parole.



Better Late than Never

It happens almost every spring, that chores
We should have taken care of in the fall
Are there, ahead of us, to cast a pall
Upon the surface of the burnished floors

Our winter boots had trodden all those months—
Long shadows of the deeds we’d left undone.
Before the season proper has begun
Some things must be attended to at once,

Including, dare I say, the prompt removal
Of last year’s desiccated wind-blown stalks
And any vagrant weeds that lined the walks
Without the gardener’s express approval.

And leaves, now thickly matted on the beds,
Must be removed to let the bulbs emerge
And cycle through the normal vernal surge
Of colors as intense as Joseph’s threads.

What’s done is done. What hasn’t been, we know,
Might never be, but for the habits built
Throughout a lifetime. We will feel no guilt
If sometimes things get done a little slow.



Life after the Death of Winter

At last, the world showed signs of spring
__(As too, his sluggish stride)
When, after having overslept,
__He found that everything
He owned was draped in tints of green,
__But only once he’d leapt
From bed and fixed his gaze outside
__Upon the brilliant scene

Where swollen buds festooned the trees
__Around his ample yard.
The chirping birds had all returned,
__And waves of thirsty bees
Had left behind the crowded hive.
__With winter’s court adjourned,
His precious land, long cold and hard,
__Once more had come alive.

There was no time for sleeping now,
__Because another day
Had come for him to get behind
__That rugged rusty plow
And work his fertile fields anew,
__Again to set his mind
On planting corn and baling hay,
__To see new seasons through.



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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16 Responses

  1. Peter Austin

    I very much enjoyed these poems, especially the understated humour, which is a nice counterbalance to the more serious theme of seasonal appreciation.

    • C.B. Anderson


      In these strange times it never hurts to crack a smile now and then. In fact, this spring has been the coldest and the rainiest I can remember, so I don’t feel that I’ve gotten too far behind on my gardening chores. I’ll worry when the weather warms up.

      • peter austin

        You should see my garden (no, in fact you shouldn’t: my thumb is bright red – if that’s the opposite of green? My finest achievement so far is keeping a Christmas Poinsettia alive till May!)

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    All three poems are excellent, but I especially like “The Onus of Vernal Duty.” The imagery of “springtime’s blanket amnesties” is more than just striking — the word “amnesties” brings in a suggestion of conditional forgiveness, and this note is brilliantly re-struck with the final word “parole.” Top-notch work.

    The notion of spring as a “pardon” that comes after the repentance of winter goes as far back as the myth of Persephone. I am also reminded of Wallace Stevens’ line: “The cowl of winter, done repenting…”

    • C.B. Anderson


      Leave it to you to come up with every possible literary reference. I have only skimmed the surface, but you seem to have read (and remembered!) nearly everything. At this point I would only like to say that separating rhymes a great distance (as I did in the last of the three poems) is not a particularly good idea. It’s a nifty technical touch, but it forces the reader to search for the rhymes, rather than simply letting the reader hear them in the mind’s ear. But formal is formal, and sometimes the reader is expected to a bit of work. Is that too much to ask?

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Kip, I wouldn’t say that widely separated rhymes are bad. It’s just that, like super-dry martinis or bitter olives, they are an acquired taste. The sophisticated and long-time poetry reader will appreciate them.

  3. Rod Walford

    Who better than a long-time gardener to write so evocatively on the changing of seasons? I enjoyed them all – even though I cannot claim to be a great fan of widely separated rhyme I feel I am now acquiring a taste for it.

    • C.B. Anderson


      As J.S. Salemi indicated, it’s an acquired taste, like coffee, and I am glad that you will at least consider the possibility.

  4. David Watt

    Your springtime poems are all well written.

    I particularly enjoyed the lines:
    ‘Our winter boots had trodden all those months—
    Long shadows of the deeds we’d left undone.’

    We’re not too far away here now from winter, and there will undoubtedly be some deeds ‘left undone’ to carry over into spring.

  5. Sally Cook

    Dear Kip —
    Wow! Admirable form, vocabulary, and subtle intent.
    But why do I get the feeling you are not looking ahead to the gardening season with any great enthusiasm?
    I prefer to fast forward to an image of you on your veranda on a rare June night, cool drink in hand, surveying the satisfying results of your earnest toil.

    • C.B. Anderson


      I thank you so much for your incisive comments. To answer your profound question, I’ve been there/done that so many times that my bones have become weary. It’s similar to carpel-tunnel syndrome, where my thews have simply given up the ghost. Optimism is no longer an option. I make do, but I do nothing I haven’t done a hundred times before. I apologize if I seem a bit too melancholic, but I cannot be other than what I am.

      I , too, look forward toward that cool (or not so cool) drink on my veranda in June, but my saddest thought is that you won’t be there to enjoy it with me. My toil is inconsequential; all that matters is the results.

      • Sally Cook

        dear Kip —
        Would love to join you in admiration of all the order you have created, in and above ground..
        Gardens are so beautiful at night. Let’s invite some poet friends, too. And shall we have little crackers with delicious things spread on them, and some light music; perhaps a little Percy Grainger ?
        Thank you for inviting me, Kip. Poets I would like to invite, living and dead, would be Shakespeare,Blake, Campion, Yankevich, Whitworth, Joseph Salemi, the Bryants, and Mr. MacKenzie, of course. .Why not add yours to the list?
        What a conversation we might have !

    • C.B. Anderson

      No guilt, David. Your garden will let you know what it needs.

  6. C.B. Anderson

    Jeezus, Sally. I’d drive four hundred miles, or more, to attend such a fest. But just make sure that the ghost of Richard Wilbur is on hand to put us in our proper places.

    • Sally Cook

      And we should send up to Amherst for the belle as well !

      • C.B. Anderson

        Sally, I don’t think that Emily was much of a party-goer. But perhaps we could get her to loosen up her whale-bone corset.

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