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Rededication

The sullen days of winter
Remain a galling splinter
Within my thickened skin,
So let the games begin!

Though I’m inclined to focus
Upon the blooming crocus,
The loom of April fills
My mind with daffodils.

With every spring, an Easter,
But will it bring me feast or
Famine, as here I stand
Examining the land?

A blizzard of narcissus
Is Christmas to my missus,
And as she fares, so I,
A mirror to her sky.

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The Order of Bloom in Spring and Attendant Disorders

The spring is signaled by advancing light,
By stunning clumps of white and purple crocus,
And by the way my winter mind must fight
To reestablish necessary focus.

So here I am, knee-deep in catalogs,
Oblivious to any daffodil
Whose trumpet may have pierced the vernal fogs
Still shrouding unexpected winterkill.

With work to do, I search my books for theory
On how to fend disaster; meanwhile, tulips
Bloom in the garden and, becoming weary
Of text, I dream of summertime’s mint juleps.

I must be sure to tidy up the border
Before the yearly show of allium,
For otherwise my doctor may well order
Another double dose of Valium.

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The Sky’s the Limit

The lotic silver music, of a stream
full flush with run-off from a mountainside
obliged in spring to shed the winter dream
beneath which dormant living things abide,

is token of the promise freshened by
the steady pelting of the water bead.
The fall of rain, like manna from the sky,
revives the fundamental tribal need

to propagate ancestral lines.  You’ll know
it’s time to shed your heavy winter boots
by how the merging sound of drop and flow
awakens urges in your thirsty roots

to grope for footing on the softened soil,
as often they’ve so ably done.  Above
the seamless hovering of cloud, a loyal
lover awaits with warm unbounded love:

the same your father knew, and his before;
the same your children will before they die,
provided they attend and not ignore
the silver music and the giving sky.

First published in Harp-Strings Poetry Journal

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In Our Eyes

“… if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for being….”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “The Rhodora”

In early spring, before the frost has fled
The ground for good, we set aside the plan
We spent all winter drawing
And pay attention to the flower bed
Where sudden flourishes of color span
The weeks of vernal thawing.

Though minor bulbs deserve an accolade,
Their major task is telling us the time
Has finally come for sowing
The seed we ordered months ago.  Our spade
And rake are poised to spread manure and lime
On soil where we’ll be growing

The crops we most rely on to maintain
Our health and sense of purpose.  Every day,
Until we’ve reached the longest,
We reap our share of sweat and muscle pain,
Aware that Nature’s hand will best repay
Those efforts which are strongest.

Aesthetic judgments are the perquisites
Of having finished necessary chores
That justify our being,
And when the hour arrives to call it quits,
Our contribution to the great outdoors
Is beauty worth the seeing.

First published in Pulse

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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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20 Responses

  1. Margaret Coats

    Liked them all, thank you. Do you have any crops to name that you “most rely on to maintain our health and sense of purpose”? Or by that, do you mean “sweat and muscle pain” and “beauty worth the seeing”?

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      It is the very growing of crops that satisfies one’s sense of purpose. It doesn’t matter much which ones they are — anything homegrown is likely to be healthful. But if I had to rely on my own garden for all my produce (which was once pretty much how things went), I would certainly grow carrots and kale for their nutritional value. Vegetables are the hardest class of plants to grow, because they are essentially (once) wild plants into which genetic diseases have been bred — you will never see wild broccoli, though there might still be something in the world that resembles wild kale (Brassica alba), from which most of our familiar cole crops (kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards etc.) are descended. Difficult to grow, also, because every varmint in the world wants to eat them. I could go on about this for hours, because there is so much detail about how to grow vegetables successfully. Semi-retired from all of that, nowadays I grow succulent treats such as tomatoes, cucumbers and fiber-free snap beans. Sweat, pain and beauty are side-effects that help to make a life worth living and are intimately interconnected with health and purpose. Or so I find. This year, I expect to add Cannabis indica to my current small plot, since it is now legal in Massachusetts.

      Reply
  2. Gail

    USDA zone 8b aka gardener’s paradise! If I accidentally drop a cutting on the ground, it sprouts. (A piece of hyperbole, but very nearly true! ) The gleaners will be harvesting the wild asparagus from the ditches soon.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      You, Gail, inhabit a nearly subtropical climate zone where so many amazing things are possible. You can probably grow artichokes, if you wanted to. Would you like to disclose in which part of the world you live? It might be at the tip of Long Island, NY, or it might be in coastal Carolina. Wild asparagus is an ambiguous term. It can mean both common asparagus gone wild and the new shoots of pokeweed (as described by Euell Gibbons in his Stalking the Wild Asparagus.

      Reply
  3. Joe Tessitore

    Speaking of “beauty worth the seeing”, I for one would love to see a photo or two, if you could make that happen.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Tell me, Joe, of what, exactly, would you like to see a photo. A well-managed vegetable garden, an ornamental garden, or what? Tell me, and I will try to oblige, either privately (if you share with me your e-mail address) or publicly on this forum. The only limitation is my own ability to manage the transfer of images from one site to another. That’s not what I do best, but I think I can make something happen. Let me know.

      Reply
  4. BRIAN YAPKO

    C.B., I am amazed at the extraordinary skill and wit of your rhymes! In particular, the rhymes of tulips and juleps and then allium and valium have me in stitches. Humor aside, each of these poems is a joy to read — truly “beauty worth the seeing.” Thank you for sharing them.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Thank you, Brian. If you can think of another rhyme for “tulips,” then please let me know. The spring-flowering bulbs augur the coming of summer, but you better believe that a mint julep is not a concoction I would ever actually drink — I’d rather eat my poetic license whole and swallow it dry than ever drink something like that. But just maybe, if I attended the Kentucky Derby, I might change my mind.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Kip, you just don’t appreciate Bourbon.

        The poems are a delight, like a giardinera salad. Do you grow basil and parsley? For our kitchen, those are absolute requirements.

      • Julian D. Woodruff

        Blue lips, blue lips, new lips, true lips–these are the kind of thing Hart would have had a field day with.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Joseph, my son-in-law has taught me quite a bit about bourbon in the past year, and I appreciate it more and more as time goes on. And indeed, I always grow sweet basil and a clump of Italian parsley, without which life would not be worth living.

  5. Sally Cook

    C.B., you have taken us forward only a few weeks into the fruitful season with your graceful poems.
    I cannot grow vegetables in the back due to an awful black walnut tree which overshadows all that grows, but this year I’m going to try window boxes in the front. I’m hoping to get a nice beefsteak tomato to grow there. That and those sweet
    Oh, CB — don’t chew up your poetic license, whatever you do. We don’t want to lose you.
    Cannot grow edible things in the back because of that overhanging black walnut tree, This year I plan to try growing a nice tomato and some sweet banana peppers in a window box in the front; this will brighten up the summer meals, I think.
    Have you ever heard of using a mix of colloidal silver in water to get rid of black spot on a peach tree? It is said this will work if the tree ingests it from the soil (don’t know why they worded it that way) (otherwise a tumbler might suffice, with a lime slice on the side.)
    Thanks again for reminding us of the beauty of plants.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      It’s nearly impossible to grow any kind of fruit (tomatoes included) in the shade, Sally, and I would not try to grow a large-vined variety of tomato in a window box — a whiskey barrel at least for such. But there are compact varieties (of cherry tomatoes) that will produce fruit with small root space. For more details on what I know about this, please contact me directly, and I will be happy to impart everything I know about the subject.

      Reply
  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., I love how you’ve managed to combine your love of gardening with your passion for poetry to produce an excellent series of poems that exude wit, wonder and lessons in both of your favorite pastimes. Thank you!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I’m not sure I “love” gardening anymore; it’s just what I do, and my body is tired of it, but I do like the results. At least two of these poems were written many years ago when I was at the height of my gardening powers, and I decided that now would be a good time to resurrect them. The wit is something I cannot escape, not even if I wanted to.

      Reply
  7. Julian D. Woodriff

    These are all clever and delightful to read, CB. Your insistent use of enjambment made somehow made me think of slipping and sliding around in the muddy conditions of early spring, but you surely had other intentions.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      No, Julian, I think you got it right in your initial thoughts. There’s a reason that spring mud rhymes with life blood.

      Reply
  8. David Watt

    C.B., your amalgam of humor and uncommon rhymes makes for enjoyable reading. You have reminded me that the Aussie slang word ‘missus’ is also
    utilized in America and Britain.

    The vegetables we grow here in Canberra backyards are often munched by hungry possums. Therefore, we resort to netting, or just accept a degree of losses. As backyard grown fruit falls prey to cockatoos and possums, netting is even more critical if a decent harvest is sought. No matter the particular challenges faced by gardeners in different locations, the results are generally worth the effort.

    Reply

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