.

Stages of Arrested Development

__The lads who once had wet their beds
__Adventured off in brand-new Keds,
Exploring every corner of creation.

__Age twelve or so, they raced on sleds
__Down icy streets and risked their heads
For flashes of adrenal coruscation.

__Years later, callow newly-weds,
__Their careless words and dark unsaids
Precipitated bitter separation.

__At thirty, garbed in silken threads
__Which shady fiscal watersheds
Afforded, they surpassed all expectation,

__Establishing their Wall Street creds.
__Remarried, lodged in lavish spreads
And planning on eternal celebration,

__They coasted—till the nosy Feds
__Lent substance to their deepest dreads
By mounting an intense investigation.

__Released from prison, feeble shreds
__Of what they’d been, they took their meds,
Gave little thought to personal salvation
And counted down the days to their cremation.

.

.

Our Fond Delusions

We think that there’s some good in every man,
That politicians strive to serve the people,
That outcomes go according to a plan,
That nothing bad occurs beneath a steeple.

We readily believe in just rewards,
In regular solutions to a problem,
In conflicts that require no clash of swords,
In Halloweens that don’t involve a goblin.

We’re sure that global peace will come one day,
Secured and sealed by trusty diplomats,
And that there’s got to be a simple way
To teach a dog to get along with cats.

It’s also been our custom to conceive
Of immigrants who trespassed through our borders
That automatically pack up and leave
Because a sitting President so orders.

When oxen fly, when pebbles sprout and grow,
When stalwart Spartan sentries are caught nappin’,
When summer flowers bloom from drifts of snow,
It’s then, and only then, those things will happen.

.

.

In Haste at Leisure

__It’s not a crime
To ponder old decisions,
__But there’s no time
To contemplate revisions

Of what’s been set in stone.
__There is a place
For everything that’s known,
__Yet not a trace

__Of disavowed
Intentions from the months
__We cried aloud:
We must repent at once!

Old habits overcome
__New resolutions
As icy waters numb
__Our vain ablutions,

__And we intuit
That nothing good is done
__Until we do it
Without a loaded gun

Aimed squarely at our head,
__And there’s the rub.
Before we’re counted dead
__We need to scrub

__The sin our backs
Are laden with, and never
__Let sloth relax
Our uttermost endeavor.

.

.

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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36 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    You know what’s nice and refreshing about these poems, apart from their consummate craftsmanship? It’s their refusal to accept a bland, mindless, optimistic, “positive-thinking” outlook on life — the stupid and shallow outlook that is ingrained in the American character. These are poems of clear-sighted and tough-thinking cynicism, worthy of a Juvenal or a Persius. They are what used to be termed “hard-boiled.”

    Kip Anderson has shown, in all three poems but especially in the first two, that cherishing fond delusions is the major American character flaw. The third poem (about unkept resolutions to improve) touches on the naive psychological fixation Americans have on “repentance,” “reform,” and moral “rearmament.”

    How wonderful to read three perfectly composed pieces that diagnose basic American character flaws, and how aptly ironic that they should be illustrated by a picture from Norman Rockwell.

    And lest anyone think that I believe poems are primarily about their “messages,” let me add that the real achievement in all three pieces is their absolute metrical felicity, their perfect rhymes, their sophisticated diction, and their flawless English syntax. (In the first poem, maintaining the same AAB rhyme for six tercets and a final quatrain shows real mastery).

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Thank you, Joseph. I must say that I didn’t know I was doing that (diagnosing basic American character flaws). But now that you mention it ….

      In the third poem dimeter lines alternate with trimeter lines, with the pattern reversed in each successive stanza. I often use indentation to indicate the beginning of a line with fewer feet, but here I neglected to employ that technique consistently. I checked my original manuscript and discovered that this was a transcription error and not my intention at all.

      Reply
  2. Norma Okun

    Upon reading CB Anderson’s poems
    Three poems blasting that the world is full of
    Stupid people who once peed on their beds
    Brought up with sneakers that went everywhere in the world?
    Then they married and some had credit cards and others
    Were made to go back to their homeland
    Not that I care about a person’s point of view
    But then he says there is no good in any man
    And says with a sneer that people are supposed to fear
    That there is nothing here to respect, abide by or see as good enough
    It is easier to complain about the errors of humanity
    Then to see the good that they have done
    If he takes the rub from Shakespeare
    Then surely, he must know that there is another side to every man
    That no matter how clever people are
    The good the true and the beautiful have won
    It is way easier to condemn than to see what good is there
    Where did all vaccines come from? The invention of the kidney dialysis machine?
    The invention of the swiss watch? How about the works of Hopper?
    Turner and many more who might have not worn sneakers? Samuel Johnson and
    The Victorian age should teach we all can readily love,
    The poems of Coleridge, Woodsworth and Keats?
    Where does your whining and complaining grace the world to make it better as others have in the past?
    As shown in Shelley, Byron, and Browning?
    If poetry is only local and does not include the universe
    It is that much not poetry at all

    Reply
    • Monty

      I feel that you’ve completely misunderstood CB’s poems, Norma. But that’s not a slight on you; it may be the case that you never stood a chance of grasping their meaning, ‘coz they’re cleverly directed at those who see the world the way you evidently see it.. through rose-tinted glasses; at those who misplace their trust in a false idealism/optimism (“everything’s gonna be alright”), which dissuades them from ever scratching the surface to see how things really are.

      Reply
      • Norma Okun

        Monty, thank you for your comment. The opposite of what you wrote is also true. If things do not have surface they cannot possibly have depth. If you see through rosy glasses perhaps it is because you were looking to be accurate, it did not matter what color of glass you saw through. The truth is beauty and beauty might be the reason I was born.

      • Monty

        In a truly ideal world, Norma, ‘beauty’ wouldn’t need surface OR depth; it would just envelope us all completely and constantly. But, unfortunately . . . !

      • C.B. Anderson

        It’s good to hear from you again, Monty. It’s been a while.

      • Monty

        The reason being, CB.. I’ve just done 6 weeks volunteer-work at a monkey-sanctuary deep in the jungle in central India . . no internet within 60 kms! The lack of contact with the outside world was almost as refreshing as it was to live with the primates for 6 weeks.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Other than proving the point that the world IS full of stupid people, I’m not sure about what some of your points are. I never wrote “there is no good in any man” and where did I write (with a sneer) “that people are supposed to fear”? It was already clear that you have a hard time writing English, but now it appears that you aren’t that good at reading it, either. And what does a Swiss watch have to do with anything? Perhaps a poem that went like this would be more to your liking:

      It is our duty
      To find the beauty
      In all we see,
      eternally.

      Reply
      • Norma Okun

        Here are some lines you wrote that show there is fear because.
        “And we intuit
        That nothing good is done
        __Until we do it
        Without a loaded gun
        We think that there’s some good in every man,
        That politicians strive to serve the people,
        That outcomes go according to a plan,
        That nothing bad occurs beneath a steeple.
        Are you denying what you wrote?
        Perhaps your English should speak better!! Who are these people who you think think that way?

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    Thank you, Ms. Okun, for proving everything that I said.

    A much better writer than I, the great H.L. Mencken, said the following in his brilliant essay “The Cult of Hope,” from 1920:

    Of all the sentimental errors that reign and rage in this incomparable Republic, the worst is that which confuses the function of criticism, whether aesthetic, political, or social, with the function of reform. Almost invariably it takes the form of a protest. “The fellow condemns without offering anything better. Why tear down without building up?” So snivel the sweet ones: so wags the national tongue. The messianic delusion becomes a sort of universal murrain. It is impossible to get an audience for an idea that is not “constructive” — i.e., that is not glib, and uplifting, and full of hope, and hence capable of tickling the emotions by leaping the intermediate barrier of the intelligence.

    –from “Prejudices: Second Series” (1920), p. 211

    It’s not the task of poetry to be uplifting or edifying or moralistic or most idiotically of all, “constructive.” That sort of thing is for Sunday-School sermons.

    Reply
    • Norma Okun

      Thank you for your comments Mr. Salemi. I dedicate this poem to you.
      Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows (from The Prelude, Book 1)

      by William Wordsworth

      Original Language English

      Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
      Like harmony in music; there is a dark
      Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
      Discordant elements, makes them cling together
      In one society. How strange, that all
      The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
      Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
      Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part,
      And that a needful part, in making up
      The calm existence that is mine when I
      Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        What the devil does this passage from Wordsworth have to do with anything?

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., these well-crafted, thought-provoking poems are written with honesty and clarity, and I applaud you for both. My favorite of the three is “Our Fond Delusions” for the beauty (“When summer flowers bloom from drifts of snow”) and that wry wink of humor (“We think that… nothing bad occurs beneath a steeple”) amid the stark reality of the world laid bare in verse.

    The discussion your work has initiated shows just how effective the poems are. It puts me in mind of this quote by James A. Garfield; “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable”. I choose freedom every time, and thank you, C.B., for your liberating words.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Thank you, Susan. It turns out that I borrowed some of the images in “Delusions” from a Bluegrass song by The Louvin Brothers, which was covered by Jim and Jesse McReynolds:

      You may take a pebble and teach it to grow,
      You can teach all the flowers to bloom in the snow,
      You can teach all the raindrops to return to the clouds,
      But you can’t teach my heart to forget.
      When I stop dreaming,
      That’s when I’ll stop loving you.

      And enjoy your freedom while you still have it. The land of the free might soon become the land of the fee.

      Reply
  5. James A. Tweedie

    I would also like to add my appreciation for C.B.s skillfully-wrought and bitingly-poetic commentary on subjects we can all sink our teeth into.

    I agree with Dr. Salemi that there is a certain sense of depth and gravitas in poems that tackle the darker side of human nature and experience. When we read Dante or Milton we do not first turn to their rhapsodic depictions of Paradise but rather prefer to enthusiastically immerse ourselves in the lowering circles of hell. After all, what is there in Heaven that strikes us with such force as the image of Satan, with the three betrayers in his mouths, ironically entrapping himself for all eternity by his efforts to free himself by his own strength, alone?

    On the other hand, it may, perhaps, be easier to write good poetry on dark themes than it is to write good poetry on lbrighterr, more positive and hopeful ones. This is, I think, true for my own poetry, and perhaps for the poetry of Dr. Salemi, as well. But, then again, on the other hand, we have the lyric and uplifting depictions of love and faith created by McKenzie, Coats, Bryant and Cook to remind us that the subjects of beauty and goodness need not always be mocked as not “biting” enough or for being as mawkishly sentimental as a Sunday sermon.

    As humans, we exist within a world of both darkness and light, of hope and despair, of righteousness and sin, of depression and elation, of life and of death. Poetry should embrace it all and at all times and in all ways strive to rise to its highest and best in the telling.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Thank you, James. In your third paragraph you raise a very important point. It is, indeed, much more difficult to write a good poem on brighter themes, because it is very easy to become schmaltzy, treacly or (fill in any other appropriate adjective). Darker ideas are easier to convey because one doesn’t have to try all that hard to draw them from life. I once quipped, “A pessimist is never disappointed,” to which my auditor replied, “A pessimist is always disappointed.” I don’t think he quite understood my point.

      I hope someday to write a poem that, without irony, is full of light and hope and all the other good stuff, but I’m not sure I have it in me. If I ever do, then you will be one of the first to know.

      Reply
      • Norma Okun

        Hi Mr. Anderson, you asked me what does a swiss watch have to do with your poem? Well I thought you could consider some smart people who have helped the world keep time. You wrote you hoped to someday write “without irony, is full of light and hope…” Well perhaps there is more good outside of you that you have not paid attention to. I look forward to what else you can say.

  6. Norma Okun

    Mr. Salemi, if you don’t know a good poem from a bad one how do you come to appreciate poetry? Perhaps Wordsworth would be a good poet to consider, wouldn’t you think? Since you give me your opinion I gave you mine.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Do you have a reading comprehension problem, Ms. Okun?

      The question of the intrinsic value of Wordsworth’s poem has NOTHING AT ALL TO DO with the issues being debated here. The point of this exchange was Kip Anderson’s poems, and your attempt to denigrate them by insisting that they are somehow “wrong” and that they are “whining and complaining” and that they are “not much poetry at all.”

      You did NOT just give your opinion. You bad-mouthed Kip’s poems without giving a shred of actual literary criticism of their structure or stylistics. That may be acceptable in a therapy session, but it’s not the way we discuss poems here.

      Reply
      • Norma Okun

        Mr. Salemi, perhaps you are right. There is no room here to say anything but a praise to your friends. To me is not in keeping with what the purpose of poetry is. If the poem does not entertain as well as educate, it has little use for me.

  7. C.B. Anderson

    I’m sorry, Norma, that I even bothered to ask. Yes, some damn good engineers have built a watch that can keep accurate time, but what the hell has that to do with any poem I have ever written? That’s my question. If you want to pre-edit all of my future poems before they are published, then please apply for the position; otherwise you should stop being the source of your own eternal embarrassment.

    Reply
    • Norma Okun

      Mr. C.B. Anderson, it is you who will have your own eternal embarrassment Not me. I have a right to say things and if you don’t like it then go hire someone else to do pre-edit your stuff.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        You, Norma, have every right to say what you want to say, including statements that make you look stupid. You are very good at that, I should add. But do you ever read critically the words that you yourself have typed? I doubt it. I wish you the best of luck in your incoherent universe, but it’s not a place where any sane person would want to dwell.

  8. David Watt

    Thanks C. B. : firstly for penning entertaining poetry, and secondly, for presenting the unvarnished truth. I’m glad you don’t write about sugarplum fairies and the like (although you would undoubtedly still skillfully present both the winged and the grounded perspective).
    James makes a good point in saying that light and dark themes are equally valid in poetry.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I sometimes think, David, that I write poems only for the sake of entertaining you. But I would have you know that it’s unlikely that any poems by me dealing with sugarplum fairies will be coming soon to any poetry website near you.

      Reply
      • Norma Okun

        If I were to die in hell
        Salemi should know
        I went with good company
        The earth is my friend
        No matter where I went
        I had no metric rhyme
        There were no belles to rhyme
        It was my soul that went out of my body
        And the Lord did not judge me on
        A sonnet, never mind he says I am
        All of that but love being put in a
        Song like Jazz where there is a sound
        That lifts my spirit up and cuddles me
        And says sleep my beautiful child
        There were not cribs with gold or silver spoons it was the
        Lord to bring you here.
        I will abide with him
        Not mortals only
        Because I know
        Milk and love come
        From the human heart
        Not one will believe you matter
        More than the person who milked you or gave you other milk to survive
        Perhaps I am that kind of child that strangers raised
        Not because they knew who I came from
        Because they knew a baby had a right to live
        It is not the norm as stanzas from a well built
        Sonnets grow
        It was a misplaced child
        A not wanted one
        The human kindness shows
        If you come from free verse
        Or dressed in style
        Or like Oscar Wilde wrote
        In his play about being earnest
        There is the norm of being born
        And the ridiculous way that
        People trash the newborn
        However, it is a subject of poesy
        But if you think the story needs
        Special form, with whatever
        Rhymes into a line
        I say huzza let me get out
        And claim my liberty
        In any form you might call right
        It is I am human born as anyone
        Without the love and caring of a human
        And found me in a human comedy
        And love my maker more because it took
        Oscar Wilde to make me famous

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        I don’t know if you are going to hell, Norma, but after reading that mawkish and meandering bit of free-verse drivel, I know that your poetic abilities have gone to pot.

        Seriously, if you really prefer free verse in the manner of W.C. Williams, why come here to cause trouble and to argue? There are scores of poetry websites where you would fit right in, like a plug in a socket.

  9. Norma Okun

    I will let a real poet answer you. Here is William Carlos Williams from Kora in Hell saying it for me.
    “All that seem solid: melancholias, idees fixes, eight years at the academy, Mr. Locke, this year and the next and the next— one like another— whee!— they are April zephyrs, were one a Botticelli, between their chinks, pink anemones. Often it happens that in a community of no great distinction some fellow of superficial learning but great stupidity will seem to be rooted in the earth of the place       the most solid figure imaginable       impossible to remove him.

    William Carlos Williams. Kora in Hell: Improvisations (Kindle Locations 1096-1100).

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      So you think that a pediatrician from northeast New Jersey who did dull free verse in his spare time is “a real poet”? If so, Ms. Okun, why are you hanging around here? After all, it would seem to be your view that we are “a community of no great distinction.”

      Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      You wouldn’t know a “real poet” if he or she bit you in the ass, Norma.

      Reply

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