.

Ill Wind

The wind, no friend, assaults us so unkindly
And suffers nothing to abate its force,
Though boys who fly their kites adore it blindly,
As if it were a deity from Norse

Mythology.  For those of us who plow
The earth, its presence is a daunting nuisance
We’d like to put an end to, here and now.
The same rough men who tell us that contusions

Are foreplay tokens laud the wind’s caress—
A cherished openhanded friendly buffet—
And, smirking at our obvious distress,
Assure us that in time we’ll come to love it.

The truth has often been misunderstood:
It is a healthy wind that blows no good.

.

.

All the Wrong Places 

He searched for messages in tea leaves, racked his brain
Attempting to discern within the steamy steep
Of China green a glint of cosmic order.  Deep
Inside his cup he spotted hints of tannic stain.

He looked for noble purposes in books the wise
Had handed down, but surpluses of wordy prose
Benumbed his struggling mind until he banished those
Who rose to punish him and closed his bleary eyes.

He sought enlightenment inside a bottle of
Expensive whiskey, thought a lot about the grain
Distilled to spirit, and, while feeling little pain,
Found naught that would endear it to the God above.

He trolled for absolution on the ocean swell,
Performing his ablutions in the rolling wave,
Yet some intrusive notion from beyond the grave
Foretold a long vacation near the sinks of hell.

He cast about in mountain air for clarity
Of vision, never doubting something there would soon
Uncloud his past decisions, but the path he’d hewn
Was crowded with omitted deeds of charity.

.

.

Reclamation Project

I never thought I’d live to see the day
When men and women feared to speak their mind,
Nor did I think that what they had to say
Would pique the general ire of humankind.

But I was wrong—it happens all the time,
And I have lately learned to keep my mouth
Shut.  Nowadays, the most egregious crime
Is speaking truth; the world is going south

Into a netherland where nothing’s what
It really is: what’s false is true; what’s true
Is false; discernment has no value.  But,
If I may make a point, the sky is blue

When we wake up, and all the birds still sing
The Sun into its place up in the sky.
The clocks still work, and almost everything
Is just the way it was in days gone by.

This Earth, though not my friend, is yet my mentor;
Although we’ve disagreements now and then,
It’s still no place I’d hesitate to enter,
Despite the irritating ways of Men.

.

.

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. Paul Freeman

    Thank you for three fine reads. I particularly enjoyed Reclamation Project. The final stanza is pretty amazing.

    And by the way, the sky is salmon pink …. on Mars.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      You are very welcome, Paul. Yes, though I have my doubts sometimes (today, for instance, it’s 95 degrees with 70% humidity), I do like it here. Sometimes even here the sky is pink, though mostly at sunrise or sunset.

      Reply
  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    I like the hexameters in the poem “All the Wrong Places.” You don’t see too much of the alexandrine line in English poetry.

    The first four quatrains present a picture of where the character is searching: tea leaves, books, whiskey, and finally the ocean (this last might be by sailing a boat, or perhaps just by splashing in the surf at a beach). The unspoken question is this: What exactly is he searching for? Wisdom? Occult knowledge? Salvation? Self-understanding?

    The fifth quatrain suggests that he is climbing a mountain — iconology which immediately calls to mind a religious search, either for God or God’s Truth. And the last line suggests that the character has banished charity from his life, and this has been the real reason for his hopeless search.

    The line “Foretold a long vacation near the sinks of hell” is to my mind a clear reference to Purgatory, which is temporally limited (“a long vacation” suggests this, while also being a kind of grisly black humor), and similar to hell in its pain (“near the sinks of hell”).

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Your surmises about “All the Wrong Places” are pretty much on point, Joseph. As a matter of fact, I wrote the poem fifteen years ago, or something like that. There are times when I feel like I am already in Purgatory — as I continue to go downhill, everything seems like an uphill battle.

      Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      Joseph, this is such a good close reading that you deserve an appreciative response here, in addition to the longer one I’ll post for C. B. below. Thanks!

      Reply
  3. Allegra Silberstein

    Your use of rhyme is great. I especially enjoyed Reclamation Project.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      The best thing about rhyme, Allegra, is that it’s free for the taking.

      Reply
  4. Julian D. Woodruff

    CB, your use of assonance, interior rhyme, and enjambment could not be more purposeful, especially in “Places.” The end of the 1st 4train in that one really sets the tone for me.
    But please, let’s have more rain and less heat, even if it means more wind and gray skies.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      That poem, Julian, was actually written quite some time ago, when I was trying to find my way in this business, and I agree with you completely when it comes to the weather.

      Reply
  5. Margaret Coats

    “Reclamation Project” is an excellent title, even though it sounds a bit environmentalist. It can mean claiming the earth again for oneself, or looking at human society as a project whose reclamation is in doubt.

    Having expressed admiration for Joseph Salemi’s reading of “All the Wrong Places,” I’ll just say that when I read it, I thought you should have repeated “clarity” as the final word. I understand why omitting charity leads to looking in wrong places for clarity, but aren’t there deeds of clarity? And hasn’t the speaker, in conducting his search, failed to perform them? In any case, great use of nearly identical words.

    I’ve read “Ill Wind” several times without arriving at a satisfactory interpretation. Does a healthy wind blow no good in the same way that a healthy meal doesn’t taste good? That doesn’t sound like the vegetable gardener poet. And you mention kite flyers, for whom wind is always good, until a hurricane rips their kites away from them. Evan found a superb picture for “Ill Wind”–but has he solved my proverb meaning problem? Author, please!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Your points, Margaret, one at a time. In “Reclamation Project” it’s myself I’d like to reclaim, along with the world as it once was. I am an environmentalist in the sense that I like to behold good things in my environment. Preservation of “Nature” is a secondary concern — human nature and Mother Nature preserve themselves.

      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Joseph Salemi understands my poetry better than I understand it. I don’t quite know what “deeds of clarity” are, but I’m quite sure that they are deeds of charity. The speaker (or the narrator, or, better yet, the hypothetical third person character) has no shortcomings that are not directly attributable to me, but made-up persons have their own problems, don’t they?

      Regarding “Ill Wind” I can only say that no interpretation is necessary. Wind is an impediment to the process of fine-tuned gardening, especially when one is attempting to install row cover fabric, which acts like a sail in any kind of wind. You have heard the expression: It’s an ill wind that blows no good. But it’s a healthy (i.e. strong and hale) wind that is up to no good. That’s all there is to the joke.

      Reply
  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Ill Wind’ for its clever subversion of an age old adage, and ‘All the Wrong Places’ for harsh lessons in life… BUT, I adore ‘Reclamation Project’ for its sentiment and wonder! Thank you!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Your enjoyment is all that matters, Susan. Let me add: O tempora! O mores!

      Reply
  7. James A. Tweedie

    Reclamation Project is (sadly) spot on. A friend of my recently proudly identified himself as a “proud progressive” as part of his bio byline in a local magazine.

    I asked him if the publisher would have accepted his bio if he had described himself as a “proud conservative” or a “proud Trump supporter.” He didn’t have an answer. Some speech is indeed more acceptable than other these days.

    And, personally, I loved the reference to “charity.” That is, after all, the “second greatest commandment” as well as the way we are given to fulfill the commandment described as the “first and greatest.”

    You are, of course, the master of enjambment but I always hesitate a bit when I attempt to stretch one across a break between two stanzas. Not that it’s a rule, but because (to my ear) it seems to break the flow of both rhythm and thought more than when it is occurs within.

    I also like “buffet/love it” and “mentor/enter” At my initial reading I breezed past them without even noticing–which proves they did the job admirably!

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Mr. Tweedie, enjambment across the boundary of a stanza was considered bad form (or rather, to be avoided) in the past. But one of the achievements of New Formalism was the realization that the ABAB quatrain was a perfect medium for extended narration, and enjambing from the end of one quatrain to the start of the next was discovered to be a useful tool. Notice that Kip Anderson does not use it, however, in the poem “All the Wrong Places,” where he has an ABBA rhyme pattern. Enjambment just doesn’t click quite the same way as it does with the ABAB scheme.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        My reply is late but I want to thank you for making the helpful distinction between a rhyme pattern where enjambment works and one where it doesn’t work as well.

    • C.B. Anderson

      To enjamb or not to enjamb is a matter of taste. There have been those who would advocate against it, probably due to some principle regarding the “integrity of the line,” but I find it very convenient as a way to insert rhymes without the hard-edged practice of end-stopping.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        C.B. Personally, I am with you so far as enjambment is concerned and for much the same reason. I also find that it often breaks up otherwise tedious “tick=tocky” metrical beat-per-line regularity and stretches poetic phrasing into something similar to ordinary speech while keeping the rhyme/rhythmic pattern unbroken. In this way formal poetry can often be written out on a page as good prose with the casual reader never suspecting that he/she is reading a sonnet, etc. Like I said, “you are the master of enjambment!”

  8. David Watt

    I particularly enjoyed the conversational ease of ‘Reclamation Project’. For example, preceding the final two stanzas with ‘But, If I may make a point’ is, for me at least, a great way to connect with the reader (not that the reader would consider missing out on the point of truth which follows).

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Sometimes, David, such phrases (“There are those who say” & “And we have heard” are other examples) are needed to fill space in order to get to the rhyme and get it in the right place.

      Reply

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