.

So It Is Written

The books that I have owned for many years,
Still sitting on my shelves or stored in boxes,
Have yellowed pages—damaged belvederes—
With covers bearing pale mildewy poxes.

I’ve read them all, but such a heavy toll
Humidity inflicts on sheaves of paper,
A nuisance since the first papyrus scroll.
Before the time of Edison, a taper

Or possibly a smoky whale-oil lamp
Were what was used to read a book at night,
But even then the air proved much too damp
To keep the printed pages crisp and bright.

But this has never been my main concern:
I wonder whether all the things I’ve read,
The knowledge I’ve been fortunate to learn,
Will still be with me when at last I’m dead

And buried.  Whatsoever shall befall,
I’m well connected to my dusty books
That tell too little or reveal it all
From banquet tables or from shady nooks.

.

.

Ember

The orange embers of a dying fire
That glow from out a slumping bed of ashes
In time enjoin a bright angelic choir
To soothe the back that suffered many lashes.

Though time escapes the imperfective grasp
Of those who suffer sometime or another,
What interfering hand installs the hasp
To lock away a pilgrim from his brother?

The journey has no final destinations,
For traveled roads are midwife to a process,
Continuous, and spanning generations,
That leads, if all goes well, to perfect gnosis.

Religion is the least important thing
For those who’ve made an effort to remember
Occult events of which the angels sing:
A host of Christmases beyond December.

.

.

Truth as the Residue of Consensus

I see as far as I can see,
But in the end it’s only me
That’s spotted through my telescope.
Accord is doomed, but still there’s hope

That something might be salvaged from
A gastropod’s operculum,
For hidden coils inside the shell,
Where Fibonacci numbers swell,

Unfold a prepossessing realm
Where mysteries will overwhelm
The bottom line of common sense.
The living world is too immense

To be enveloped by a sentence
Pronounced by those whose sole repentance
Is wishing they’d been more exact
In framing phrases they redact.

Inflated claims are most emphatic
When doubts they raise are metastatic,
And often someone’s thoughtless smirk
Can neutralize a mind at work.

.

.

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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19 Responses

  1. Cheryl Corey

    I could very much relate to the first one. There’s nothing like sitting down with a good book, and even after it’s read, we’re often compelled to keep it.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I wish, Cheryl, that I had hung on to many of the books I once owned but have since discarded.

      Reply
  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., I have thoroughly enjoyed this trio of poetic delights, especially ‘So It Is Written’ and ‘Truth as the Residue of Consensus’ (a title that demands the poem receives attention). I adore books – the feel, the smell, the hypnotic wonder of the words weaving their magic between the covers, even “covers bearing pale mildewy poxes”. I believe their knowledge makes its way under our skin and burrows into our souls, so we should always be careful when choosing reading material. 😉

    ‘Truth as the Residue of Consensus’ reminds me that the older I get, the less I know. It also brings to mind Alan Turing and his study of patterns in nature… we know nothing! I’ve come to learn, “The living world is too immense/To be enveloped by a sentence”. On a technical note, the end rhymes in this superb poem are pure genius – especially ‘salvaged from/operculum’. Thank you!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      My memory, Susan, is not quite what it used to be, but somehow I’ve never been able to forget the terms I learned in high school biology. The problem with our perception of the world, I think, is that we tend to project too much of ourselves on it, rather than letting it speak to us in the manner Goethe recommended.

      Reply
  3. Brian Yapko

    C.B., a triumphant trio of poems which carry greater heft than meets the eye. Of the three my favorite is “So It Is Written” – a poem with a grave title which, in my reading, is as much about the grave as it is about books. The crucial query of whether the knowledge one learns will continue to exist beyond death…? There aren’t many subjects that are more profound and you touch upon it in such a subtle, understated way.

    “Ember” is also quite deep in its exploration of spirituality. I especially like the rhyme of “process” and “gnosis” but am also quite intrigued by the idea of “a host of Christmases beyond December” from which a sense of wonder emanates.

    I also greatly enjoy “Truth” though I’m not certain that I fully understand it. It seems to me a poem about perception – the existence of a “prepossessing realm/Where mysteries will overwhelm” which can be quite overlooked by those who measure and weigh but cannot see. A superb subject for the poetic eye. And your love of language and, especially, rhyme is quite infectious.

    Gems, all three.

    Reply
  4. C.B. Anderson

    Well, let’s see, Brian. I do wonder, but I have no answer. I’m just a dabbler in metaphysics.

    In “Ember” the reader is forced to use a more British pronunciation of “process,” and it’s unfortunate that this half of the rhyme had to come first. A host of Christmases: Is it not true that every day holds the possibility of an incarnation of light and truth?

    I’m not sure I understand “Truth as …” either. Not that you should take his word for it, but I think it was it Paul Valery who said: Poems don’t mean; they just are.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      I am relieved to know that my pleasure in reading “Truth As . . .” was not dependent on my finding consistent and coherent meaning in it (metaphysical or otherwise). As you say, it is a poem that simply “is” and the joy of seeing the words operculum (rhymed with “savaged from” no less!) and Fibonacci in the same stanza was more than worth the price of admission.

      Thoughtful, entertaining, well-crafted and polished to perfection, as always.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Your first sentence, James, is quite droll. Despite my inclination toward logophilia, I find that I am not always in complete command. I’m glad you were entertained.

  5. Margaret Coats

    Whether knowledge persists after death is a question I’ve had to look up more than once for inquiring students (maybe they are questioning the lasting value of what’s being taught). The answer is that it does, because memory is a power of the soul. What one remembers while living in the body depends in part on the physical organ of the brain, but not after the brain has ceased operation (for good and all, not to get into the question of brain death while the body is still living). Of course, my answer does not mean one will remember everything he has ever read or studied. As we are well aware, some of those things never make it into the memory.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      If you had to look up the answer to the question, Margaret, then you must have relied on some other authority. Who might that be? There might be things I’d rather not remember for all eternity, but I guess, in any case, that it’s not up to me. The possible attitude you attribute to “inquiring students” is a damn funny way of looking at that situation. But this still allows the question of what the soul is capable of forgetting. The brain/mind/psyche/soul interrelationships are still pretty much an open question. Descartes couldn’t figure it out, and neither can I.

      Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      And even if the truth is known, how would we know that we had actually found it?

      Reply
  6. Mia

    The first poem speaks to the book lover in all of us .
    The last couplet of the last poem is quite a surprise and I am trying to understand why. I am thinking though that just as ‘ a thoughtless smirk can neutralise a mind at work’ as you say, then perhaps a good word drawn from knowledge might do the opposite so that knowledge accrued through a lifetime of study, may live on through other people, when we help or encourage them to grow.
    Thank you for three very thoughtful poems.

    Reply
      • Mia

        This sentence just calls for a poem to go with it,
        I apologise in advance though for my very poor effort.

        May what you say, Mia, be true,
        for it cannot be false to know
        that we are not alone.
        They have it wrong, ‘Tis false,
        ‘I am, therefore I exist’ but true that
        I exist because I am seen and known
        but just like gold in dust is found
        so too is truth, not found in stars,
        but in the ground.

  7. David Watt

    Your rhyme choices are striking and entertaining, particularly in “Truth as the Residue of Consensus.” The first poem wonderfully explores the connection between the reader and their books. Books are often referred to as “Food for thought”, and fittingly, this piece itself satisfies the appetite for thought.

    Reply

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