Two orbs in hand—one large, one small—
He climbed the tower to the top.
He let them go and watched them fall,
And those below who saw them drop

Were dumbstruck when they hit the ground
With a loud thud at the same time.
The clerics in the piazza frowned,
For it was deemed a heinous crime

To contradict the Church’s teaching.
Before an anxious Pisan throng,
One Galileo, overreaching,
Had proven Aristotle wrong.

                                                        First published in Angle (2014)



Hier Stehe Ich

after Martin Luther

I take a moment, nearly every day,
To think about the many first responders
Who place themselves directly in harm’s way.
__Ich kann nicht anders.

When I become distracted by the news
My focus on what’s most important wanders,
And I’m abruptly called upon to choose.
__Ich kann nicht anders.

With heavy heart and with a knitted brow
I notice what my troubled conscience ponders,
The pith of what it will and won’t allow.
__Ich kann nicht anders.

In mornings following a restless night,
I feel the weight of chances laxness squanders
And try to find a way to make things right.
__Ich kann nicht anders.

                                                               First published in The Lyric (2020)


Hier Stehe Ich: Here I stand

Ich kann nicht anders: I can do no other



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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21 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    I particularly enjoyed the first poem.

    If only physics (or religious studies) was taught like this at school.

    Thanks for the reads, CB.

    • C.B. Anderson

      The funny thing, Paul, is that very few scholars believe that this event actually happened, whence the title.

  2. Brian Yapko

    I enjoyed both of these poems very much, C.B. Galileo’s importance in the history of science is difficult to overstate. He basically invented the scientific method. He had brains and guts, even when it meant standing up to the Church. Is your poem titled “Apocrypha” because the Leaning Tower of Pisa experiment is often considered more legend than fact?

    Hier Stehe Ich is a very meaningful poem about integrity and being true to yourself. I especially enjoyed your ability to rhyme the German word “anders” with your selection of appropriate English words. I very much enjoy seeing foreign words brought into English poetry and song lyrics.

    • C.B. Anderson

      The answer to your question in first paragraph, Brian, is yes.

      If I could have found any other English rhymes for “anders,” then the poem might have run on a bit longer. Can you think of any others?

  3. Russel Winick

    I agree with Paul – had physics been taught like this in school, my grades would have been better. And your second poem is a highly relatable standard to reach for. Thanks for contributing these works.

    • C.B. Anderson

      When you write “taught like this,” Russel, do you mean through poems or by conducting experiments in the field? Your second sentence speaks to the importance of personal integrity and faith in the truth.

  4. Margaret Coats

    C. B., I love that pyrrhic-spondee-pyrrhic-spondee line, “With a loud thud at the same time.” Fits the topic of the poem to perfection. But did Pisans really think Aristotle was a Church teacher? And didn’t some smart kid try the trick with a rock and a feather?

    The first experiment in intro physics is Galileo’s concerning motion down an inclined plane. This is one where Galileo did not rely on popular perceptions (as above), but measured time with a water clock. Or so he said when he published the results. He had hit upon the fundamental equation, and trusted his genius so much that he did not perform the experiment. His results were too perfect. Had he been a scientist, he would have discovered friction slowing down the motion. Da Vinci (earlier than Galileo) suggested the idea, but only in the 19th century did Morin calculate coefficients of friction dependent on roughness of the surface.

    Moral of the story for physics students is not to trust your theory and fudge your results. Like Galileo and Fauci, you and your methods are not Science. Nature is complex.

  5. C.B. Anderson

    Well yes, Margaret, I was backed into a corner and could find no other way out than to use the substitutions you noted. I don’t know what Pisans thought, but it has been my understanding that the Church accepted Aristotle as the authority on most mundane issues. The problem with the rock and the feather issue is a simple matter of air resistance. In a vacuum, feathers and rocks will fall at the same rate.

    Had I known that you were so well versed in science (and not just, say, French literature) we might have had some very different exchanges. And you are right: Nature is complex, as complex as an omniscient god can make it.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Aristotle was called “the master of them that know” by star-struck medievals. But in fact there was a lot that he didn’t know in physics, and other things that he got wrong.

      • C.B. Anderson

        In other words, the Greek shall inherit the earth, for better or for worse, and it’s hard to dig ourselves out of this mire.

  6. Russel Winick

    The latter, although the former would have been interesting as well.

    • C.B. Anderson

      So you might have had trouble with calculus as well, which is the key to physics. No wonder, then, that you became a lawyer, where everything is up for grabs and little is exact (or unarguable), and this is precisely why I admire your poems.

  7. Mia

    Aristotle lived around 350BC, of course discoveries have been made since then.
    But why the comment on everything Greek?
    eg ‘the Greek shall inherit the earth and it’s hard to dig ourselves out of this
    It is amazing to me that saying, the Jew or the Muslim or the American would not be tolerated, but the Greek is always fair game…

  8. Joseph S. Salemi

    Kip Anderson said it because it rhymes with “meek.”

    Everyone is fair game for attack at some time or another. There are no privileged classes. Even the Romans, who deeply respected Greek culture and literature, sometimes referred to them as “Graeculi,” which is a playfully contemptuous term that can be translated as “little no-good Greeks.”

  9. Mia

    My apologies if I totally misunderstood the comment but
    I respectfully disagree that everyone is fair game for attack though. Some things and people are never attacked or criticised.
    I don’t want to disagree with you as I respect your knowledge and ability a great deal but that is my opinion. I also believe that criticism should always be allowed in a fair and democratic society but attack usually comes from those on the losing side of a debate.
    As for the Romans, well what can I say, they translated all the Greek stories, copied the architecture and passed it all off as their own whilst belittling those they stole from. But that is probably the least they did.
    Would I have liked to live during that time? Well it depends I suppose whether
    I would be rich, powerful and influential or a poor, Graeculi pawn. Nothing much changes then.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Actually, I attack Americans quite a bit. See my new essay (“Stupidity’s Hothouse”) up at the Expansive Poetry Online website.

      But you’re right — there are certain “protected classes” in modern Western society that you are not allowed to attack without suffering great social ostracism and penalties. Those are Muslims, blacks, Jews, non-Westerners in general, feminist women, illegal aliens and immigrants, homosexuals, and transsexuals.

      • Mia

        Thank you for taking the time to reply. For me the pressure to conform to a certain way of thinking is too much at times. That is why I appreciate this site and admire how it advocates for excellence in poetry. I see some of your criticism here as being concerned about that. There are so many issues that it is difficult to discuss them all.
        One glimmer of hope though is that some transgender young people are publicly regretting transitioning and are open about the catastrophic ways it has impacted on their health. I have read of one person in their twenties with brittle bones for example, caused by medication given when they were still a child. It is still not mainstream news though. I think I had better leave it at that.
        I am going to go and read your essay now. But I think you don’t attack people, you attack stupidity!

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        I knew only one transsexual person (male to female), but he did not undergo the procedure until he was in his sixties. Why? Very simple — he did not dare to do it until his wealthy father was dead. He had no intention of losing his substantial inheritance (which his strict European father would have cut him off from totally had he done it while the old man lived). In other words, money was more important to him than “sexual identity.”

  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., I particularly like ‘Hier Stehe Ich’ with the impactful repetition of ‘ Ich kann nicht anders’. It hits home with me… each stanza is a beautiful beacon of light in a dark world that doesn’t seem to care.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Thank you so much for your kind comment, Susan. For sure, the world doesn’t care, but the people in it should.


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