Domain of Pain

A piercing migraine or a throbbing toothache,
A splinter underneath a fingernail,
An upset stomach caused by too much fruitcake,
And waiting for responses in the mail

Are typical examples of distress
A person is expected to endure
Within this agonizing wilderness
Until his passage to a farther shore.

And add to this some grit stuck to an eyelid,
Which needs ophthalmological relief
In order to ensure our boats are guided
To safety past tomorrow’s hidden reef.

We have become accustomed to assaults
By enemies that storm our nervous system,
But that does not imply we praise their faults,
Or that we shook their hands and promptly kissed them.

Perhaps the worst indignity of all
Is listening to crooked politicians
Whose speeches, echoed from a bathroom wall,
Bespeak a plethora of foul perditions.

 

A World of Hurt

Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker. —Friedrich Nietzsche

Sometimes a bit of pain is just what’s needed
To regulate a misdirected life;
In bygone days, no matter how one pleaded
The torturer refused to spare the knife.

Much more is learned from pain than gained from pleasure
(Of this there’s never been the slightest doubt),
And when it comes to wisdom made to measure
Some pain is that which can’t be done without.

Extreme discomfort is a model teacher
Exacting swift repentance at a touch,
For why on earth would any living creature
Consent, for pleasure’s sake, to hurt so much.

Forswearing objects of profane desire
Does little to dispel the sting of grief,
But pain, the universal Edifier,
Cuts quickly to the core of one’s belief.

Though cries of “I can’t take it any longer!”
Arise from huddled masses all the time,
If it don’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger
Remains the standard global paradigm.

First published in Trinacria

 

Small Talk Writ Large

She said I never seemed to find the time
for conversations other than some light
remarks pertaining to the weather. “I’m
about to change that,” I replied, contrite.

It started out as loose pajama talk,
but when I told her that I thought she’d gained
a pound or two, she raised her tomahawk
and would have scalped me if I had remained

within her reach. I rolled right off the bed
and headed for the safety of the couch
downstairs; she said that I would be a dead
man if I ventured near the bedroom. Ouch!

I hadn’t known there were forbidden topics
whose mention would enkindle sudden wrath;
the problem for congenital myopics
like me is that it’s hard to do the math

when numbers on the wall are out of focus.
I’m thankful for my therapeutic wife
who’s able to identify the locus
of discontent and bring me back to life.

 

 

Crapshoot

Adornments that are saved for rainy days
Have not the luster of a falling star,
And neither do the beacons lost in haze
Shine brightly for those searching from afar.

Reflection is invested in the future,
Though sometimes it is focused on the past,
But never should an able farmer suture
His destiny to things that cannot last.

By neither plan nor serendipity
Will anything go back to how it was,
Because there is no cure for entropy—
Disorder all the world is what it does.

It’s possible to think that purpose matters,
That good intentions pave the road to heaven,
But mostly we’re directed by Mad Hatters
Whose grand design is seven-come-eleven.

With utmost care we’ve sown our living seed
In fertile fields prepared with plow and harrow,
But harvest-laden barns will not impede
The headlong flight of time’s relentless arrow.

First published in Roots in the Sky, Boots on the Ground

 

 

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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26 Responses

  1. peter austin

    Hi.
    I can’t say I was overly impressed with poems 3 and 4, but ‘Domain of Pain’ and ‘A World of Hurt’ I found to be very good – tight of structure, employing some very creative rhymes and written with a delightfully wry humour.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Peter,

      If I’m batting an even .500 in your book, then I will take that as a good year. I will look over the whiffs and try to see where I went wrong — in other words, struck out. I sincerely thank you for your honest criticism; I never get enough of that.

      Reply
      • Peter Austin

        CB:
        Having taken a closer look, here’s what I find unsatisfactory. In ‘Small Talk…’,
        ‘tomahawk’ and ‘scalp’ jar – perhaps because they’re too closely related to indigenous people and also reference things long past and best forgotten. Also, though, I wonder about the narrator: how long has he been married, not to know already that some topics (especially weight-gain) are taboo, unless dealt with very tactfully (which wouldn’t jive with the tone of the poem’s remainder.
        In ‘Crapshoot’, I find the references to ‘Mad Hatters’ and ‘seven-come-eleven’ jarring. ‘ ‘Hatters’ is too plainly just for the rhyme, and to what does the other refer? The corner stores?
        I hope this is some help and causes no offence.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Mr. Austin —

        Why the devil are you so damned worried about “giving offense”? Everything we know about Kip Anderson’s poetry is that he is specifically unconcerned with the hurt feelings of snowflakes and other politically correct types.

        You’re upset about “tomahawk” and “scalp” because they might bother some Indian? You’re worried about any reference to weight-gain, since it might insult some obese woman? That sort of pusillanimity cripples poetic composition. And “seven-come-eleven” is a cry spoken by the shooter in a crap game, calling on luck to bring him either a seven or an eleven on his first dice throw, which means that he wins.

        As for “Hatter,” yes, it rhymes perfectly with “matter.” That’s what’s called a perfect rhyme! That’s what formal poetry does. And it makes an amazingly apt reference to widespread insanity, and to the mad uncertainty of chance.

        If you’re worried about offending “indigenous people” and fat ladies, well… that’s your personal problem. But there’s no reason to criticize Kip Anderson’s poetry if he doesn’t happen to share your concerns.

      • Peter Austin

        Joe:
        Your comments remind me nothing as much as ‘third man in’ during a hockey brawl, except that there’s no brawl (hadn’t you noticed?), without which any ‘third man in’ is pretty certain to make an ass of himself. So, why don’t you take your 5 minutes (days?) in the penalty box and try getting to the bottom of why you are so prone to vitriol-chucking temper tantrums?
        Do you really think CB is in need of such a ferocious defence, or do I detect a touch of ad hominem in your words? If so, I can only put it down to my decision to stop contributing to Trinacria…. And if you are tempted to think that you always had the same attitude to me as in your latest diatribe, maybe you should reread the review of my book that you wrote and published in that worthy magazine?

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        I have never said or thought that your poetry was bad. On the contrary, I have praised it in print, as you acknowledge. And I have written no “diatribe” — all I objected to was your making of a moralistic (rather than aesthetic) judgment on Kip Anderson’s poetry here, by worrying about things such as how Indians or fat ladies might be offended by elements of it. Knowing Kip Anderson’s views, why would you think that he would take such criticism seriously?

        I have written nothing “ad hominem” in my comment. And I wasn’t even aware that you have decided not to contribute more material to TRINACRIA. But just to satisfy curiosity, perhaps you could tell us why you have made that decision.

      • Peter Austin

        Joe:
        I stand corrected as regards ‘seven-come-eleven’ of which, as a Canadian who grew up in England, I had never heard. As someone who wishes to have his poetry appreciated by the widest possible audience, I’m more in favour than you of the occasional explanatory note. I would, however, have looked up the phrase had it occurred to me.
        I am no snowflake, nor am I a slave to political correctness, as some of my writing should tell you. Yes, my objection to ‘tomahawk’ and ‘scalp’ was partly cultural, as someone who has taught about the Residential School system in Canada and cannot help be deeply offended with what past generations did to the indigenous people in the name of Christianity. However, it was also partly esthetic: it seemed to me that different words could have been found to convey the same message without too much trouble, thus removing an unsatisfactory image (either that or one displaying a sky high level of insensitivity to the other gender absent from the rest of the poem). Even taken playfully, to me it doesn’t work.
        Neither does the future-suture rhyme work, perfect or not. Associated with a farmer, it is a real strain, though I know such do find the need to sew up a wound from time to time (I’ve seen it happening to castrated pigs). However, to me the idea of a farmer suturing his destiny doesn’t work, because ‘suture’ is virtually the only word with which ‘future’ rhymes, and that smacks of desperation.
        As regards Hatters whose grand design is seven-come-eleven, it just seems to me to be incongruous , but perhaps that’s also a purely personal reaction.
        Finally, I was a bit hot tempered when I mentioned ‘ad hominem’, and am happy to take it back. The reason I gave up contributing to Trinacria was that I found it janglingly uneven: really good stuff cheek-by-jowl with third rate offerings with little worth saying. However, I guess that’s personal too.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    As usual, Kip Anderson presents us with poems that are top-notch and delightful. Let me give some reasons for my praise of them.

    The rhymes are not just good; they’re also unexpected. “Toothache” and fruitcake” and “eyelid” and guided” and “topics” and “myopics” and “future” and “suture” — they surprise the reader with their aptness and their neat fit. And he only uses two near-rhymes: “endure” and “shore” and “serendipity” and “entropy.” (In fact, in some dialects “endure” and “shore” might be perfect rhymes.)

    In addition, he makes use of multisyllabic words that fit perfectly into his chosen meter — a skill that many formalist poets simply don’t have, or else refuse to practice. There’s the six syllables of “ophthalmological” in the first poem; and the seven syllables of the phrase “congenital myopics” of the third poem. He uses “serendipity,” “therapeutic”, and “Edifier.” Many contemporary poets are terrified of using any vocabulary longer than three syllables.

    But above all, Kip Anderson shows how to fuse together diction, imagery, philosophical statement, literary reference, and colloquial slang in a single brilliant quatrain, worthy of Villon:

    It’s possible to think that purpose matters,
    That good intentions pave the road to heaven,
    But mostly we’re directed by Mad Hatters
    Whose grand design is seven-come-eleven.

    It starts out with Aristotelian teleology (line 1), moves to a wry reversal of the the cliche that the road to hell is paved with good intentions (line 2), followed by a sudden and stinging literary reference to Alice in Wonderland (line 3), and then ending with a perfect quote from gamblers’ jargon (line 4) that is absolutely timely right up to today, in the clueless totalitarianism of the Wuhan Flu scare, where our gutless Democrat governors and mayors are as haplessly in the hands of fate as any two-bit dice-thrower in Las Vegas. And Kip wrote that poem “Crapshoot” some years ago, before any of this lock-down insanity happened! That in itself tells us something about the immortality and enduring relevance of good verse.

    Finally, the last quatrain of “Crapshoot” is a comment on human mortality and transience worthy of Vergil.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Joseph, you understand me better than I understand myself, and I sincerely hope that entropy does not entail the disappearance of organized formal poetry from the face of the earth. There are forces pushing for this, but until freedom of expression is abolished, and until the sun sets in the east, there is hope.

      Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Well, let’s look at it this way. We all use a slant rhyme or a near rhyme on occasion. As long as it doesn’t become an obtrusive habit, it’s tolerable. Consider what a senex in a Roman comedy once said: “I don’t condemn my son for whoring every so often. I condemn his whoring when he does it excessively.”

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Sorry — the above reply was for Ron Walford.

      • Rod Walford

        Yes Professor you are of course correct in that we all fall short of perfection and we must bear in mind the matter of individual perception when criticizing another poet’s work. What is “obscene” to some may be acceptable to others and vice-versa. I guess we should all try to tolerate each other’s literary “sins” and not be misled by thinking our personal opinion is the Gospel truth. Thank you for your reply..Rod.

    • Michael

      Your writing isn’t good enough to justify criticizing other poets the way you seem to enjoy doing. Half the words in these poems are forced to be mispronounced just to fit in with the meter; it’s lazy artifice and nothing more.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Who the hell are you, Michael? Your first name is more common these days than John. And what the hell are you talking about? There is not a single word in these poems that the reader is forced to mispronounce. I’m sorry if I assumed that you were a native speaker of English. If you are Michael Maibach, Then I understand completely. You have no grasp of language whatsoever.

  3. Rod Walford

    Well only a few days ago C.B. you picked me up for the “dubious” practice of rhyming “seen” with “supreme” …….. your reasoning clearly being that you want no-one enroaching upon territory of which you are the master!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Rod,

      Please explain. Although I do think that trying to rhyme “seen” with “supreme” is obscene, I cannot understand why you have accused me of claiming territory about which I don’t give a shit about.

      Reply
      • Rod Walford

        C.B. just by way of explanation I picked up at least four instances of rhyme in your first poem alone which I thought were a little suspect but I certainly wouldn’t say they are obscene and I’m sorry you found my one instance so awful. Thus it was that I felt that whilst you had one finger pointing at me, your other three were pointing back at yourself. As I have just said to Prof Salemi I guess it’s all a matter of individual perspective and we should be more tolerant of each other. I can see that you have studied poetry quite intensely and are familiar with its many technical terms, for which you have my utmost admiration. I, on the other hand, have not. I just write it down as it flows and do very little editing ( as you will have deduced I’m sure!) After all said and done we both enjoy what we do and we both have our “fans” so let us be thankful for that.

  4. Margaret Coats

    In contrast to Peter, I preferred “Small Talk” and “Crapshoot,” both for an effective ending that announces itself as such by changing tone to contrast with the earlier quatrains. Also loved the line, “Disorder all the world is what is does.” After the dash, I expected a definition of the noun “entropy,” but instead there is mimicry of entropy when “disorder” turns out to be a verb, confusing my expectation and forcing more careful attention to syntax. Excellent imitation.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Margaret,

      I couldn’t ask for any better response. Sometimes I surprise myself, and I would challenge any poet who would claim that he or she is in total control all of the time. Stuff happens, and miracles abound.

      Reply
  5. David Watt

    “Crapshoot” takes a universally known theme; the inevitability of change, and expounds on this theme in an interesting and clear manner. In the second stanza, I guess there aren’t too many rhymes matching with ‘future’. However, use of the word ‘suture’ rather than the predictable ‘tie’ creates some of that interest. Undoubtedly, word choice is critical to the recipe, as Joseph Salemi has explained in greater detail.

    The preceding three poems were also quite good.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Thank you, David. I think you were scheduled for the second session today, and I’m sorry I had to miss it, but I had to get my tomatoes & peppers in the ground, sow some beans and cucumbers, and go to the grocery store. I hope Evan will post the Zoom event in its entirety, so that I can see what I missed. In our practice session a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see that you, like myself, are a seasoned citizen. The reason for my surprise is that your poems always show a youthful exuberance. Hereafter I expect I will read your work with a somewhat different mindset.

      Reply
      • David Watt

        Yes C.B., I am a seasoned citizen, and have the silver hair to prove it. I like the fact that my poems demonstrate a youthful exuberance. My wife would say that I have never grown up!

        I missed the first session as the time was that much earlier in the morning than the second. My tomatoes, beans, and peppers will have to wait until November. The saying in Canberra is “Don’t plant your tomatoes until after the ‘Melbourne Cup’ horse race (the 1st Tuesday in November). This timing almost always ensures a lack of frost.

  6. Julian D. Woodruff

    To me this is a stunning display of technique and control: there is ample variety of tone and procedure, and yet all poems are in 5 iambic quatrains, ABAB. The rhymes are good. 1) The serendipity / entropy (it seems to me, at least) is conventional, considering that both words end with normal rhyming iambs, if less stressed than the fourth iamb of the respective lines. 2) Eyelid / guided, with their long “i”, almost makes the ear forget the l-d contrast. 3) Toothache / fruitcake is as resourceful as Tom Lehrer’s Harvard / discovered (his song on the periodic table, parodying “Modern Major General”), if not so strategically placed. 4) Ditto system / kissed them. 5) Creature / teacher passes easily, although maybe not quite in Gielgud’s or Olivier’s playbook.
    Bravo!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Julian, your sweet woodruff is moosik to mine ears. You will notice (as in your example 1), that, though endings of abstract nouns (e.g. “-ity) are normally unstressed in both syllables, once the iambic pattern has been established the reader almost automatically promotes the final syllable to a stress. This is just one of the peculiarities that pervade all attempts to rhyme. If I could sort everything out in a systematic way, then I would write an article on the subject. For now, I will simply say that the issue of acceptable rhymes rests on an implicit contract between the writer and the reader.

      Reply
      • Peter Austin

        CB:
        You’ll know by now that Joe S took the time to upbraid me for my well-intentioned feedback. On one count, he was entirely right: as a Canadian who grew up in England, I had never heard of seven-come-eleven. I stand corrected.
        His chief objection was to what he saw as my taking issue with the politically incorrect. In the case of tomahawk/scalped, yes, there was an element of that; though I’m no slave to P.C., I know a lot about the Residential School system in Canada and cannot help feeling that an out-of-context reference to past barbarities perpetrated by certain indigenous people isn’t appropriate; but neither do I find it aesthetically pleasing. There have to be other words that would fit without need of dragging up a past during which whites most certainly were less sinned against than sinning.
        Regarding ‘matter’ and ‘Hatter’, perfect rhyme it may be, but to me at least the richness of Carroll’s character goes too far beyond madness to make his use appropriate. And as regards ‘future/suture’, I found the rhyme too obviously forced by the lack of any other word rhyming with the former.

  7. C.B. Anderson

    Peter,

    I find it hard to disagree with someone so agreeable. A Canadian who grew up in England and has never been to Las Vegas, is more like it. In the USA we take the the conflict between indigenous American & colonists a bit more lightly, perhaps because, since the beginning of television, we have been treated to TV series such as RIN TIN TIN, WAGON TRAIN, and many others. In this context, using “tomahawk” is merely wry, and in no way insensitive. It’s a sad story, and the tales I like best are the ones where the natives gave as good as they got. In regard to “Hatter” & “suture” you are exactly right: they were convenient rhymes I hoped would carry the poems forward, and I’m not sure I could have written these in any other way.

    Reply

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