.

Farmer,

Unpack the dormant forces quiet days
Have put aside and stoke the smothered fire
Whose soot fanned out in lifeless carbon rays
Upon the hearth of winter’s mild repose,
But bear the fire within—long days require
A bolder stroke.  The spring comes to a close,
And summer spawns a host from hell’s own choir:
The heat, the blistered dawns, the gnash of hoes.

Though all the pressing needs were ably met
From solstice to the fall, do not repair
Too quickly to the lavish table set
For hero’s welcome.  Many things remain
Undone: the harvest of next winter’s fare,
The nurture owed the very kind terrain
That fosters life, the praise of freshened air
And all-sustaining sun, and prayers for rain.

.

.

Polyoptera

The flying insects go about their business
With what amounts to absolute aplomb,
Which works against our need for tranquil is-ness,
A rough scenario that tests our calm.

Mosquitoes, black flies, wasps and hornets all
Endeavor to disrupt our placid lives,
Or so it seems to us—they heed their call
To duty, then they fly back to their hives,

Or to wherever they’re obliged to spend
The night, affirming all the while our right
To tell the simple truth and not pretend
That their effect on us is only slight.

Their clans are named according to the wings
They bear: a -ptera prefixed di- or hymen-,
But better were they named for bites and stings,
A patent fact to all but Simple Simon.

As long as separate phyla share this planet,
We need to reach an orderly accord,
For sneak-attacks undo our patience, dammit,
A state of mind that we can ill afford.

.

.

A Poet’s Lot

However much we try to do what’s good
And set our feet upon a noble path,
We wind up in a shabby neighborhood,
With disappointment in the aftermath.

We want to keep our chins up—yes, we do—
And sometimes we accomplish this ideal,
But more than not our lofty plans fall through
And we are left with nothing in our creel.

In spite of this we persevere, bereft
Of anything that focuses our purpose,
And at the end of day the tool we’re left
With is a quill that doesn’t scratch the surface.

But still we ply our wares without constraint
To many venues on the Internet.
A kindly editor is deemed a saint,
Though if the truth be told, we’ve never met.

On rare occasions when they take our scribblings
It makes our day, and we’re transported off
To grand salons where we are reckoned siblings
Of Larkin, Wilbur, Hecht or Nemerov.

Remuneration is an idle dream
Because these publications have no cash.
We hold their editors in high esteem
If they can tell a hyphen from a dash.

.

.

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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34 Responses

  1. lionel willis

    Thank you for these three delightful pieces. I enjoyed reading them.

    (It never fails to surprise me how non-entomologists deal with our vital many-jointed helpers and hinderers.)

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Since we are Chordates and not Arthropods, our perspective is skewed, but the battle against insects is nothing new. They are holding their own, but so are we.

      Reply
      • lionel willis

        Take it easy, C. B. I’m with you. But we are also in a symbiosis with the pollinators, catterpillar-predating wasps, etc., and besides, a lot of the little criters have accidentally become very beautiful in our way of seeing the shared world. Rejoice!

      • C.B. Anderson

        And I am with you, Lionel. I never meant to imply that all insects should be exterminated ruthlessly. I especially like predatory wasps & hornets, though I don’t like to get close to them.

  2. David Watt

    C.B., I delight in the inventiveness of “Polyoptera”. Only you could come up with the rhyme pairings of business/is-ness and hymen/Simon.
    Your three poems are delightfully reflective.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Thanks, David. And I also thank you for not thinking my rhymes were too contrived. They were, but everything we do here is some sort of elaborate contrivance, which is nearly synonymous with fictive artifact.

      Reply
  3. Eric

    I wouldn’t want to be seen with Nemerov, Hecht, or Wilbur. Well, maybe Wilbur. Larkin is a great poet, but certainly an allowed great poet. The kind of worldview the regime loves: nihilistic and antiChristian, or, at the very least, indifferent to the faith that made them great. Aside from that, nicely written. Thanks.

    Reply
  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    All three pieces are quintessentially Anderson — the screw-tight meter, the perfect (and often arresting) rhymes, the meticulous grammar, and the sheer inventiveness. This is a poet at the height of his literary powers.

    One question: Kip, the commas after the title /Farmer/ troubles me. I assume the title is meant to be a kind of vocative of direct address to a farmer, and the subsequent poem is what is being said to him. But would it have been unbearably conventional to title the poem “To a Farmer” or
    “Advice to a Farmer”?

    I only raise the point because my editorial eye reacts badly to anything in a title that blurs the division between it and the poem itself.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Have you seen elsewhere, Joe, this particular turn on the modern habit of including the title in the 1st line, or even making it the 1st line? This title with connecting punctuation is new to me, and although I doubt anyone here would make a habit of resorting to it, a one-offer at least affords an opportunity for any reader to reflect on the practice. Maybe too, “Farmer,” is a bit more direct than “To a Farmer” etc.–something CB’s extra-poetical experiences might justify.

      Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      As for he comma in the title, Joseph, I would probable steer away from that today, though I would hold it in reserve for instances where it might be needed. I’m not quite sure why a title needs to be strictly separate from the body of the poem itself. It’s kind of like the Jewish prohibition against eating beef with cheese. Sometimes what I want is a cheeseburger. But if I had submitted this poem to you, and you had lodged your objection, then I probably would have acceded to your editorial discretion. You already know that about me.

      Reply
  5. Brian Yapko

    C.B., I very much enjoyed reading each of these poems — twice! The “Poet’s Lot” is extremely funny and I was quite moved by the stoic tirelessness of “The Farmer.” But of the three, I most enjoyed the humorously inventive subject and rhymes of “Polyoptera.” Thank you for three great reads.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Yes, Brian, that’s the point. Unless for the mere gratification of one’s own ego, what reason is there to write poetry but to evoke someone else’s enjoyment. And, without farmers, where do you think your food would come from?

      Reply
  6. Margaret Coats

    Farmers are supposed to be always in debt, and you offer a surprisingly pleasant conclusion to the “Farmer” poem with an affectionate roll call of his creditors: land, air, sun, and rain. He always has things to do, indeed, while your poet seems merely to make work for himself and his editors. Less need for the quill than the hoe, and it doesn’t accomplish as much. I was struck by the word “creel,” which I believe you use in reference to fishing, while I know it as well from a little knowledge of weaving. It’s the receptacle where a weaver keeps bobbins of thread not in current use on the loom. Applied to a poet, it would be potential input rather than product or reward. But then “creel” in the weaving sense could speak of a poet lacking the material to achieve his “lofty plans.” Great double meaning. As for the flying insects and the perennial battle with them, our traditional respite is that their attacks are seasonal. But now that they are on the offensive, you bring out the time-honored but minimally effective counterfire of a mild expletive. Splendid summer selection!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      You, Margaret, have looked deeper into my poems than I ever have, and I’ve learned a few lessons. The creel is where you store your catch prior to dinnertime.

      Reply
  7. Sally Cook

    Dear Kip —
    Your grammar’s right, your meter tight, and your word’s extensive —
    You always give good value and your thoughts are wide-ranging and it is then often that your sense of humor shows.
    So many of us always look forward to seeing your work.
    My favorite is “A Poet’s Lot? — your quill indubitably scratches the surface !

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Well, shucks, Sally. If you knew how many birds I had to kill to acquire my quills, then you would hate me. But at least they were all wild turkeys.

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Kip, this may come as a shock, but everyone ends up killing one thing to get.another. It might be a concept — in poetry it usually is, as you must know. I like wild turkeys but could not hate you over a Sunday dinner; I think you know that.
        And so long as you continue, as I do, talking to trees, well then, we have a kinship.

      • C.B. Anderson

        I’m glad to read that, Cousin Sally. A Thursday dinner might work just as well. So far, I like turkeys in many ways, but I have yet to have a flock come in and ruin a garden, which does happen some times. This is why we need to write and, if necessary, to harvest quills from the local denizens.

  8. Paul Freeman

    Thank you for some original rhyming and unusual imagery – the gnashing hoes, for example.

    I particularly enjoyed ‘Farmer’, yes oi did, and ‘A Poet’s Lot’, where the first stanza could be equally true of anything from parenting to caring for the environment.

    Thanks again for the reads, CB.

    Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Pardon me, Paul, my apologies, but —
        Dear C.B., Steward of Wild Turkeys–
        Concerning your earlier remarks — surely you don’t think that’s what stewardship’s all about. God didn’t put us here just to write poems and lollygag about, did he? No, it is a long hard road – and for those turkeys, too.

  9. Julian D. Woodruff

    Unlike CB, some writers blow it,
    Scribbling stuff I just despise.
    Still, I shan’t do to the poet
    What I try to do to flies.
    Great trio, CB!

    Reply
  10. C.B. Anderson

    I’m sorry, Eric, but I don’t understand what your problem is. It’s not possible for you to be seen with any of these great poets, because all now are deceased. Your subsequent ramblings leave no point in regard to whether you are making a comment, lodging an objection, or just venting.

    Reply
    • Eric

      You have never heard anyone say “I wouldn’t be seen with…”, ever. Interesting. What I was saying is that Hecht and Nemerov are boring academic writers, nowhere near great poets, I’m my opinion. Talented, perhaps, at making verses, but neither soar, not by a long shot. But I admire your verse. That’s all I was saying. Thank you.

      Reply
  11. Michael Dashiell

    These are 3 charming poems with specific or scientific language that makes your topics effective and real.

    Reply
  12. David Bellemare Gosselin

    I have to say “The Farmer” is perhaps my favourite poem of yours. It has a very tranquil charm and sublimity. “Prayers for rain” gives it a beautiful touch, reminding us of the uncertain but quintessential relationship man has with nature, the harvest.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Anyone who works in any kind of garden knows that one doesn’t have to make this shit up. As it turns out, securing a harvest most often involves battles with good old Mother Nature. The natural world is anything but kind.

      Reply
  13. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., as ever, your poetry is skillful and engaging. ‘Polyoptera’ is a firm favorite. In fact, I love it and will return to it for my personal amusement. It’s not only educative, it’s full of fun. “For sneak-attacks undo our patience, dammit” had me laughing. Those sneak attacks are increasing by the day in this hotspot of a bug-riddled planet… dammit! Great stuff!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Try not to get stung by wasps or hornets. Do you have tarantula hawks in your neck of the woods?

      Reply
  14. C.B. Anderson

    Anyone who works in any kind of garden knows that one doesn’t have to make this shit up. As it turns out, securing a harvest most often involves battles with good old Mother Nature. The natural world is anything but kind.

    Reply
  15. D.G. Rowe

    Air-tight, water-tight, any-other-tight one cares to name, that first poem is brilliantly crafted. Blinding good.

    Much enjoyed all of them, but the first proper.

    Cheers.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      From your lips to God’s ears. Water-tight is best because it’s best to conserve water. Water is pretty important.

      Reply
  16. Daniel Kemper

    Circling back to address my obviously interrupted post. To start again, these poems are exemplary. I’m really not sure what to add though. The meter and rhyme and natural language are stepped through with such gifted footwork it’s just a pleasure to read out loud. I’ll just leave that one word again: Exemplary.

    Reply

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