The Drive to Reconcile

__We never wish to eat a bug
__Or force an unexpected hug,
But intimacy doesn’t come without
A cost, and those who disagree, no doubt,
Are lost.  But nonetheless we cannot see
Why we can’t love the ones who disagree
__With everything that we believe,
__Without which we must take our leave.

__We’ll eat whatever dares approach—
__A fly, a beetle, or a roach—
And thank the sovereign powers up above
For letting us express our deepest love:
To watch, to eat, or otherwise engage.
Presumably we’ve finally come of age,
__So why do we remain afraid
__Of lessons learned in second grade?



When Words Fail

Always the cunning linguist, straightaway
He tried to win her with a florid spate
Of words devised to pluck the strings that pulled
Her heart.  It might have worked, but who can say?
By some misfortune, he was much too late
And couldn’t close the deal.  Nobody’s fooled

All day, and if, perchance, the end he craved
Had come to pass, it wouldn’t’ve been for long,
For everything that’s built on sand must fail.
By no mere sleight of hand can pride be saved
When every game-plan has been proven wrong—
Some time ago that ship he’d sought set sail.

Then, meeting someone clearly on the young side,
He asked if she would like to take a drive
To where a glade abuts a burbling creek.
Once there, he found himself completely tongue-tied
But knew that precious hope was still alive:
She wasn’t there to listen to him speak.



When We Are Gathered to Our Fathers

Words are men’s daughters, but God’s sons are things.
—Samuel Madden, Boulter’s Monument (1745)

What will we be to them, those rested souls
That wrought a lineage through ages past,
When we ourselves debark upon the shoals
Of Avalon?  Will they regard the last

Ashore as something less than what it was
Each one of them envisioned in the course
Of forging worthy legacies?  It does
Not matter that they are the very source

Of us, as we shall be to those we greet
In ages yet to come, for every life
Engenders others, often incomplete
And mostly unremarked.  The world is rife

With possibilities and grand events
That never happen:  Risks seem far too great,
Potential disappointments loom immense,
And there is seldom cause to celebrate.

So let us be as fathers to the sons
We’ll never have, and let our daughters be
The reconciliation, chosen ones
That ease our passage through eternity.

First published in Poetry Salzburg Review (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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15 Responses

  1. Margaret Coats

    Not having learned to eat bugs in second grade, I appreciate the crafty illogic of “The Drive to Reconcile.” And I see with amusement that it’s impossible to conclude “When Words Fail” with words. But if daughter-words can be reconciliation to ease our passage through eternity, that hints at some perceived difficulties in the eternal passage. All very thoughtful on the topic of our cherished words! Thanks.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Well, Margaret, what one learns in second grade depends on the teacher one happens to have drawn. You have made connections between these poems of which the author was unaware when they were submitted together. I argue, or suggest, that one’s daughters (one’s words, which we choose) may help reconcile the soul with the world at hand and with the world to come. Isn’t this one of the reasons that persons like us write poetry in the first place?

  2. Brian Yapko

    I enjoyed each of these quite a bit, C.B., although I must confess that the insect-noshing imagery of The Drive to Reconcile helped me stay on my diet this morning. But the metaphor works!

    I found When Words Fail to be very entertaining — especially that cheeky last line but also the sad and wise “everything that’s built on sand must fail.”

    When We Are Gathered to Our Fathers is by far my favorite of the three. The considerable depth of thought in this poem is not only thought-provoking but deeply moving. The sons we’ll never have… the daughter as the reconciliation… You see, I have never had children so that final quatrain strikes me particularly hard while at the same lifting me up. I think you’ve articulated why writing matters to me so much as I get older. The influence I’ve had on other people’s lives (for better or worse) and the words I write are my only legacy and poetry helps me reconcile myself to that fact. You’ve given me much to ponder. Thank you, C.B. Truly.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Glad you enjoyed them, Brian, and glad to help with the diet.

      That “cheeky” last line is about as far as I would care to on this site. Another wonderful thing about poetry is that things don’t always need to be spelled out.

      Yes, I put a lot of thought into the third one; I’m glad that some of it comes through. Sons (things) & daughters (words) are good because they make one look at the world in a different way. In a very literal sense, if you keep on writing formal verse, then it’s only a matter of time before you meet a pleasant metrophiliac (much younger than you are, of course) who is willing to give you both.

      So far, they haven’t found a way to tax the act of pondering, so keep at it.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Kip, your cheeky last line reminded me of an old bit of doggerel from the schoolyard. As you say, in poetry you don’t have to spell things out:

        Jack and Jill
        Went up the hill,
        Each with a buck and a quarter.
        Jill came down with two-fifty —
        They didn’t go up for water.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Indeed, Joseph, someone should compile as much of of this schoolyard doggerel as possible. I hadn’t heard yours, and I might have a couple that you don’t know about. It could be a best-seller!

  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., I particularly like the inspirational form and use of internal rhyme in the first stanza of ‘The Drive to Reconcile’… I also like: ‘We’ll eat whatever dares approach—
    __A fly, a beetle, or a roach’ but cannot get past Bear Grylls’ witchety bug… they ooze a cheese like goo when you bite into them… Yuck!! Would I be able to eat one of those in the name of love? I hope I never have to find out.

    ‘When Words Fail’ is highly amusing and has an opening line I wouldn’t recommend reading after a tipple… I’m laughing at the thought. Thank you for these admirably crafted, wonderful poems.

    • C.B. Anderson

      You gotta problem wi’ cheese, Susan? What these aborigines eat should be tried with a good barbecue sauce and cooked on a charcoal grill, Texas style. But you are exactly right: Superior elocution is always in high demand.

  4. Evan Mantyk

    Kip, I love the eating a bug metaphor. It captures so well the experience of a difficult reconciliation. I hope the perhaps shocking image I selected for this metaphor hasn’t made it too difficult for some people to enjoy your splendid poetry.


    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Evan and C.B., I’m sorry – I was being a tad cheeky. While the bug makes me shudder, it really doesn’t spoil the effect of C.B.’s fine words.

  5. Shaun C. Duncan

    These are perfect examples of what I love about your poetry, C.B: the combination of wit and wisdom, plain-speaking and poetic skill. Bravo.

  6. Julian D. Woodruff

    I too love the end of “Words.” It reminds me a bit of the verse for “Show me,” in My Fair Lady: “Words, words, I’m so sick of words …”
    I’m wondering: in “Drive,” did you intend the pairs of 4-foot lines sandwiching 4 5-foot lines as a sign of what we might want to reconcile? (BTW, the cost / lost interior rhyme in that one strikes me as very well placed).

    • C.B Anderson

      In “Drives …,” Julian, I never entertained any such intention. The cost/lost rhyme is what you might call an around-the-corner rhyme, and if I could have done without it I would gladly have done so.


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