Last Rites

Let not the Rock of Ages ever break
Or send apostate magi to the stake;
A golden era favoring good men
Will likely never come around again.

This world, in winter, is a dreary place,
Devoid of pleasure or enduring grace,
But still we stagger toward that sacred apse,
Though we have lost our bearings and our maps.

Our work, however trivial, is done,
And now we wander toward the setting sun.
As pilgrims we approach the judgement-seat
And lay our broken bodies at Your feet.

So treat us well, as You have done before,
And we will keep our faith forevermore,
Yet even if Your judgements cause us pain,
Your humble children-servants we’ll remain.



Amending the Covenant

We will cleave to the old-fashioned ways,
So to honor traditions we’ve learned,
And we’ll pray for a few sunny days,
Which our faith and our patience have earned.

We’ll be true to the heart’s steady beat
Till our time here shall come to an end
And our journey is nearly complete.
We don’t make it our place to defend

Our departure from orthodox creed;
Of religions, there’s many a choice,
Which we winnow according to need
And without a univocal voice.

Up to now, the great Lord has been kind;
He has managed to meet all our needs
And bring peace to the turbulent mind
That was formerly lost in the weeds.
In the end we will certainly find
Where our impudent posturing leads.



Dawn’s Belated Light

a terza rima variant

While we were gobbling shrimp and guzzling wine,
The conversation took a sudden turn:
Departing from the standard party line,

The person I was chatting with declared
That stricter immigration laws were fine
With him.  I feared my hearing was impaired,

Because this gentle soul had always been
A bleeding liberal through and through.  I stared,
Surprised, until a rather sheepish grin

Accompanied the serious admission
That he was worried for his kith and kin
Who faced abrupt erosion of tradition,

Old values overhauled from stem to stern,
In what’s become a war of brute attrition.
It isn’t true that people never learn.

First published in Trinacria (2016)



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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8 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    If any of these warmed a single heart, Allegra, then they were worth writing. However, my intention was less to be heart-warming than to be head-warning.

  2. Brian Yapko

    C.B., thank you for these. Last Rites is full of memorable lines and a certain pathos which I greatly admire. I always enjoy your surprising use of rhyme as in apse/maps, but it is lines like “lay our broken bodies at Your feet” which really catch the heart as does the final two lines “Yet even if Your judgements cause us pain/Your humble children-servants we’ll remain.” I find the humility and unconditional faith of these lines deeply meaningful.

    Amending the Covenant is also a gem whose last lines offer a wry and all-too-timely warning of “where our impudent posturing leads.”

    But of the three, I think my favorite is Dawn’s Belated Light. It is, of course, skillfully composed but for me its appeal is a strong connection to your subject matter. Quite candidly I spent much of my life as someone whose politics and viewpoints were knee-jerk liberal until I opened my eyes, began to think for myself and actually saw how destructive too many liberal goals were. I learned that their self-serving descriptions of being “so nice and meaning well” mattered not at all. I now judge according to the actual fruit that the tree yields – and, with liberals, I got tired of poison fruit. So when you say “it isn’t true that people never learn” I can wholeheartedly attest to that fact.

    With respect to all three, thank you for a wonderful, thought-provoking read.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I can’t decide, Brian, whether I like your criticism or your poetry more. You have figured out what I am writing about, which is a far cry from the usual pedestrian blandishments. And I look forward to your next post.

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    “Last Rites” and “Amending the Covenant” are excellent work, but they also frighten me. I seem to sense what the Scottish poet was feeling in “The Death of the Makars” — Timor mortis conturbat me.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Well, Joseph, you should know that life was designed to be scary and to focus our attention on the after-life, which is God’s great gambit. What we make of all of this falls directly on our own shoulders.

  4. Margaret Coats

    “Last Rites” seems like an excellent individual preparation-for-death poem. So much so, that it could easily be read in the singular. Each of us needs this kind of personal rite before we slip into the mental and physical debility where priest and family members pray the formal Last Rites over us. And at present, even those who want formal Last Rites are much less likely to get them than in earlier times. The busy lives of the living cannot afford time to help the dying make the final passage, although they may allot two hours for a funeral.

    “Amending the Covenant” is a good companion piece, which also seems potentially suitable in the singular (even given the recognition that covenant amenders are not “univocal”). The ending effectively acknowledges that one-sided amendments in an agreement with God may turn out to be “impudent posturings” lacking the humility displayed in “Last Rites.” Both poems occupied me for many hours of thought!

    • C.B. Anderson

      Dear Margaret,

      The last time anyone pinned me down so neatly was probably in some comment made by Joseph S. Salemi. I probably hadn’t thought these poems out as well as you subsequently have, and, without irony, I thank you for pointing out the ideas I was trying to express, and for understanding them better than I ever could.

      My MO is: Think the thought, then write it down. There is little concern for poetic beauty or philosophical coherence. Sometimes it works; sometimes it don’t. And there’s always revision.


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