‘On Sighting a Marsupial’ and Other Poetry by C.B. Anderson The Society March 14, 2022 Beauty, Culture, Humor, Poetry 16 Comments . On Sighting a Marsupial “Serve with: Turnip greens” —Joy of Cooking Opossums are so ugly that it isn’t clear Another of their kind would find one good to look At. Matted fur and hairless tails do not endear Them to Americans. According to a book I read, their closest relatives are found down under— Such animals as winsome kangaroos and cute Koalas —causing a reflective man to wonder If maybe they were shipped abroad by some astute Australian aborigine who recognized Our vast emergent Melting Pot for what it was, Or whether maybe Mother Nature so despised Her homely get she sent them packing—or because She just adores a vacuum. In the middle of The night I watched a possum gnaw the chicken bones Intended for my cat. My heart holds little love For uninvited creatures feasting in the zones I guard. I’m all for immigrants if they are legal And don’t pretend, as these, to be what they are not: They’re good at playing dead, and may deceive an eagle But not coyotes which, like them, are often shot On sight. . . Cautious, but Never Shy Wave good-by to friends you made last summer, Send them greeting cards postmarked in autumn With reminders that the rules you taught ‘em Don’t apply when life becomes a bummer Too acute to remedy or render In a language well-adjusted humans Understand. When days are cold, dismember Furniture for fires that squander lumens Making possible the nights when vital Books are read, the books which sort the living From the dead-of-mind not known for giving Out an author’s name, much less a title. Say your prayers, and carry an umbrella For the rain. Untie your shoes before you Take them off. Try singing a cappella, Dare an orchestra to just ignore you. When you travel, take along the pillow You’re accustomed to, and do your sleeping In the care of trusted arms. No weeping, If your truck pancakes an armadillo. . . When Lives Are Measured by the Meal Uva-uvam vivendo varia fit. (Motto of the Lonesome Dove Ranch) A life is not defined by money earned, But rather by the effort one’s invested. It’s vexing when a cast-iron stomach’s turned By food left sitting in the sun, ingested Without a second thought despite stern warnings The Surgeon General regularly gave. Fine days begin with ordinary mornings And only end when matters deemed of grave Importance have been settled out of court. For some stout souls, the grail is public service; For others, it’s a sweat-intensive sport, The kind where coaches get extremely nervous When games are on the line. To test the scrawl Of poets, editors of poetry Throw poems up against the kitchen wall And note the names of readers who agree The stanzas are al dente. Everyone Must eat, but those who understand that food Is more than what goes on inside the bun Are working toward a nobler consuetude. . . 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. NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets. NOTE TO POETS: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to email@example.com. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. CODEC News:Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 16 Responses Shaun C. Duncan March 14, 2022 These are all a joy to read, C.B. I particularly loved On Sighting A Marsupial, though I take some issue with the notion that koalas are cute. They live in the trees outside my house and their guttural mating call is probably the most unpleasant sound you’ll hear in the Australian bush. Our possums are far cuter than the American variety though. Reply C.B. Anderson March 14, 2022 Well, Shaun, people think koalas are cute because they look cute in still photos without sound. Your possums couldn’t possibly not be cuter than ours. Opossums and skunks might be the only small mammals I haven’t eaten at one time or another. Add woodchucks to that short list. Reply jd March 14, 2022 I enjoyed all three, especially the 2nd and 3rd which gave me a peek into what I assumed might be some of your daily experiences. No doubt they are all launched that way. Thank you for sharing. Reply C.B. Anderson March 14, 2022 So, jd, those poems have little to do with my “daily experiences; rather, they are the experiences of the narrator of the poem. In a fictive artifact, it is best not to conflate the narrator with the author. Reply Cheryl Corey March 14, 2022 In your first piece, I found “On sight.” to be a very effective ending. I’m tempted to check out Joy of Cooking for other such exotic culinary delights. It’s interesting what we humans will eat. Settlers of the early west were known to eat bear and make use of bear grease. I still remember my grandmother making pig’s feet for my grandfather. Reply C.B. Anderson March 14, 2022 Some of the recipes in that tome might surprise you. “On sight” is a hemistich, such as one will find in a rondeau, except that here it is not required by the form, but is entirely nonce, and that here it is derived from the title instead of the first line. I’ve eaten bear, mountain lion, raccoon, squirrel & jackrabbit, but I usually had to make up my own recipe. Reply Joseph S. Salemi March 14, 2022 Three delightful (and very different!) C.B. Anderson poems. The hexameter quatrains of the first one take you on a bumpy ride through the world to a slam-dunk ending which suggests that the speaker has zeroed in with his rifle on the intruding opossum and taken it out (note the ambiguity of “sighting” in the poem’s title — just seeing it, or getting a sighting reticle on it?) The iambic-5 quatrains in the second poem alternate between ABBA and ABAB, but every line ends feminine. This intricate pattern frames a strange story that goes from summer to autumn to winter, and then to reading, praying, singing, sleeping, and then flattening another animal. It has a kind of “On the Road” feel to it. The third is the toughest one — life choices paralleled with images of food and eating, and that last quatrain with poems being flung like cooked pasta against a wall, all of which leaves me dizzy! But that last line (“…working toward a nobler consuetude”) is unforgettable. As for the quote from Lonesome Dove Ranch, I’ve never made sense of it. If it were just Uva vivendo varia fit,” it would mean “The grape becomes different by living.” But the addition of the accusative form “uvam” perplexes me. Reply C.B. Anderson March 14, 2022 In the first poem, Joseph, I rely on the false notion that opossums are immigrants, but in fact they have been with us since Laurasia split off from Gondwanaland. The second poem is definitely “On the Road (Again?)”. The feminine end rhymes were called for because the meter is trochaic and I chose to avoid catalexis. Well hell, you were my last recourse. Years ago I asked an older friend of mine who had taught himself Latin to help me. All he could tell me was that many Latin phrases do not well lend themselves to word-for-word English translations. I asked a couple of guys who had been classics majors as undergraduates to help, and the best they could come up with was that it must mean something like, Variety is the spice of life. The English output from an online instant translation program was utter nonsense. So where does this come from? Or was the motto made up by some cowboy or rancher who happened to know a little Latin? I’ve wondered about this for years. Reply Joseph S. Salemi March 14, 2022 I checked with someone here at the Classics department. The “uvam” is what is called an “adverbial accusative,” and therefore the best translation is this: The grape, by living as a grape, becomes different [or variegated in color, or mottled]. Since Latin is so concise, that could be understood in a number of ways. The fact that the sentence is oracular and cryptic doesn’t help matters. Brian Yapko March 14, 2022 Although all three of these are extremely enjoyable, C.B., I most enjoyed “On Sighting a Marsupial.” I’m the only person I’ve yet heard of who has been bitten by an opossum. It’s a long story and I’m grateful that marsupials don’t carry rabies. But the scar has lasted a long time and I resent the ugly little buggers. Quick note on line 7: I think “kaolas” should be “koalas. Cautious but Never Shy is a burst of joy which gives superb instruction on cautious conduct which yet dares… I especially like the rhymes of “umbrella” and “a capella” and I was gobsmacked by the sheer surprise of the truck flattening the armadillo. If a poem leaves you with a smile on your face I’d have to say this one’s a huge success. I’m most intrigued by the slightly manic, almost stream-of-consciousness quality of “Measured by the Meal. ” The poem is moderated, mostly, by food metaphors but is obviously about deeper matters which start with ignoble but busy things like the Surgeon General and settling things out of court but which then talks about the grail of public service. There is much going on here and it sounds like you are describing a parade of human nature that does not have all that much to do with food after all. Your phrase “The stanzas are al dente” made me laugh but your movement towards a “nobler consuetude” made me think and go back to the beginning. The Latin phrase “a grape becomes mottled by being a grape” made me consider on my second reading that perhaps a poem, like a grape, sometimes simply is. As always, I am greatly impressed by your poetic style. It takes a lot of work and skill to make poetry look this conversational and effortless. Your ability to breeze past line endings is enviable as is your gift for unexpected rhyme. Add to that I got to learn a new Latin phrase and the meaning of consuetude. You’ve made it a great day to read poetry! Reply C.B. Anderson March 14, 2022 Thank you, Brian. Although possums like to play dead, it should not surprise anyone that they would use the weapons at their disposal against anyone or anything who didn’t fall for it. You are exactly right about “koalas.”– the typo was my fault, and perhaps someone back at the ranch will correct it. Back when I wrote the second poem I was cautious, but never shy. Nowadays I am shy, but rarely cautious. We are all still wondering how the epigraph in the third poem should be translated. Back in the day I just wrote, with little thought about how much sense I was making; I probably still do this. It must be a conversation I am having with myself, all formalities aside. A formal structure is kind of like a playground in which whimsy and free association are not just permitted, but are explicitly required. You can quote me on that. Reply Margaret Coats March 15, 2022 Poems of advice, from my point of view, are the most difficult to supply with any flicker of interest. This was a most popular genre in the Middle Ages, because authors felt a need to write them, but whether anyone ever felt a desire to read them, I haven’t heard. “Curious, but Never Shy” offers some hints about making advice palatable. Suggest the character to be achieved in the title; give some unusual pointers while maintaining outworn adages; save a surprise for the end. Or was this a character piece painted in proverbs? Either way, it’s better than readable. Liked the possum piece too, even though I don’t hate possums as much as you do. I think I recall that Joy of Cooking has a drawing of how to skin one. But with Fannie Farmer, I recommend collards rather than turnip greens. And plenty of gravy made with another flavor (bouillon cubes, anchovy paste). You want supper to taste as good as your poem! Reply C.B. Anderson March 15, 2022 Thank you, I think, Margaret. Petronius could’ve gone on for another twenty lines, and we still might not have tired of it. “Outworn adages” are useful 1.) when they can be re-expressed crisply in compliance with the formal demands of the chosen form, and 2.) when they can be subverted, perverted, or otherwise modified to create something unexpected. In any case, no one in his or her right mind should be taking advice, on most things, from me. Reply David Watt March 15, 2022 These three poems are an entertaining mix of observation, advice, and seamlessly linked trains of thought. Our possums, of which we have plenty, are certainly cute, but they hiss, growl, screech, and eat just about anything growing in the garden. Despite their shortcomings we use the word ‘Possum’ as a term of endearment. I gather from your description that calling someone ‘Possum’ would most likely be taken as an insult in America. Reply C.B Anderson March 15, 2022 We apply many animal names to persons when the occasion arises, but these terms are almost never complimentary: Dog, skunk, pig, jackass etc. I’ve never heard possum used, and the word itself sounds somewhat cuddly, as when we might say to a cute child, “Hey, Punkin!” [deformation of “pumpkin.”] Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant March 18, 2022 C.B., your poems always give me food for thought, though I would never contemplate eating a possum with a side of turnip greens. We have a resident possum who clears our lawn of feline feces and keeps the bug numbers down. I love them… ghostly faces, bald patches and all. I’ve decided to relax my backyard-border rules just for him. Thank you for this well-written, thought-provoking trio of poems that beg for more than one read. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Δ This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.