Who Shaves the Barber?

[The barber] shaves all those, and those
only, who do not shave themselves.  —Bertrand Russell

The barber had a gift for cutting hair,
And once a month the men who lived in town
Would take a seat upon his cushioned chair
To have four weeks of outgrowth whittled down

To classic styles direct from Hollywood
Or Esquire.  Often they would want a shave
As well, a proper facial twice as good
As any done at home.  His talent gave

Ideas to the womenfolk, and they
Began, by twos and threes, to wander in
As though he had a Roman holiday
For sale.  But which one shaved the barber’s chin?

Of course his wife did that, for what the heck,
It paid to hold a razor near his neck.



Hedge Fund

Take risks.  For instance: dangle all your toes
Beyond the ragged edges of the world,
Where raw ambition feeds—nobody knows
How much it eats or whether little curled

Ones sate its hunger better than the ones
That stick straight out; or walk a wooden plank
With sharks below it—mothers teach their sons
To be polite, but beasts will rarely thank

Their next well-balanced meal for being numb
To consequences.  Flowers are a good
Idea mainly when the fragrance from
Their nectaries pervade a neighborhood

Inhabited by multimillionaires
Who squander money, hoping to enjoy
The wealth which they’ve amassed before their heirs
Inherit it.  They’re willing to employ

The services of experts one rung down
Who somehow rose above their ethnic labels
But haven’t learned that they now run this town.
The sweetest deeds are those sheer nerve enables.



Things I Have and Haven’t Done

I’ve slept on threadbare rugs and baked beneath the sun
In Arizona.  I have taken many drugs,
Including STP and Quaaludes.  Just for fun,
I drank at least a couple thousand frosty mugs

Of local crafted beer.  I climbed a mountainside,
Endured the cold, and in the morning shot a deer
I shouldered to my tiny farm; I skinned the hide
And dined on venison until that blessèd year

Had flown.  I learned to plan, and that, so I’ve been told,
Is more than most accomplish in the meager span
We’re granted here on earth.  God knows, I’ve gotten old
And gray, but I have never slain another man.

An able gardener does what gardeners have to do.
I’m no exception.  I dealt death to pests because
I could, and nothing threatening the crops I grew
Was spared, which is as hard a fact as ever was.

Although I’ve done some things I wouldn’t do right now,
I’ve never longed for evenings full of linnet’s wings,
Bowed low and sucked the milk directly from a cow,
Or knelt and kissed the feet of presidents and kings.



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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20 Responses

  1. Roy E. Peterson

    I certainly enjoyed the humor in “Who Shaves the Barber.” If I were that barber, I would never have an affair!

  2. Satyananda Sarangi

    These are witty gems.
    Glad to read you after a long time.

    Best wishes.

  3. Jeremiah Johnson

    The barber sonnet made me think simultaneously of Charlie Chaplin’s role as the Jewish barber in “The Great Dictator”, and of how annoying it is that, in the State of Georgia, it’s illegal for a barber to give you a shave with a straight razor! One of those things I miss from when I was a child and would be nervous about giving myself 😮

    • Jeremiah Johnson

      Okay, disclaimer there – I didn’t have facial hair as a child – I think that came a few years later 🙂

    • C.B. Anderson

      Then you might not make a good mountain man, like the person of whom you are the namesake.. As far as I know, the only part of me that was ever shaved with a straight razor is the back of my neck.

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    You know, folks, the more I read Kip Anderson’s poetry the more I am baffled that we live in a country where he is not appointed the Poet Laureate. What great stuff!

    I hope everyone noticed the expert use of enjambment in the first poem, which allowed Kip to complete the sonnet’s octet in nearly two sentences. And that final couplet, with the barber’s wife holding a razor to her husband’s neck, is as striking as anything in G.G. Belli’s satirical sonnets.

    The quatrains of “Hedge Fund” are absolutely perfect, and the last two are really deft comments on social ranking. The concluding line (“The sweetest deeds are those sheer nerve enables”) is a knockout punch.

    The final poem in alexandrines (“Things I Have and Haven’t Done”) is a fine example of what real confessional poetry should be. The speaker describes his life, but it isn’t a damned mishmash of whining, pouting, and self-absorbed navel-gazing, as happens with too much free verse. It is interesting, fun to read, well-rhymed, unapologetic, philosophically thoughtful, and ends with an expressions of tough, hard-bitten, Yankee independence.

    Bravo, Kip Anderson.

    • C.B. Anderson

      You understand everything important, Joseph, and I am glad to have caught your attention. The funny thing is that all these poems were written years ago, the majority probably at least ten. Maybe I don’t improve with age. We’ll see.

  5. Allegra Silberstein

    You are a delight to read. Your use of rhymes is impeccable and delicious to read. Thank you.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Finding a good rhyme in your mind is sometimes better than finding a check in the mail. I’m happy to delight you.

  6. Brian Yapko

    C.B., reading each one of these poems is like finding a treasure chest and then pulling the gold and gems out one by one to enjoy. “Who Shaves the Barber?” has the conversational quality of a narrative you might hear at the barbershop, largely due to the clever enjambment Dr. Salemi points out. But it’s the surprising final couplet that makes the whole poem so very funny.

    “Hedge Fund” is also extremely enjoyable to read not just for the quality of poetry but for the fascinating progression of imagery and subject matter. We go from lowly toes to the obliviousness of the wealthy to the gumption of laborers, all in the service of a theme on taking risks. The universality of your message comes through loud and clear.

    But of the three my favorite is “Things I Have Done and Haven’t Done.” It’s an unsentimental look back on some of the things that have made the poet’s life one that has been well-lived. That lack of sentiment does indeed make it more powerful. What I like best is the dispassionate line “… nothing threatening the crops I grew/Was spared, which is as hard a fact as ever was.” Yes, that is a hard fact, more potent because it’s understated and presented as a non-negotiable truth — a realistic, adult point of view which I find memorable and which applies to a great many situations. Great poems, all three.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Then I’ll just skip to the chase. Every word of “Things …” is true, but let me point out a few embellishments.

      I probably never drank that much beer, but the line sounded good.

      Occasionally I wonder about linnets’ wings, and I assume that a linnet is some kind of small bird. They can’t be worse than English sparrows.

      • Paul Freeman

        Thanks for the entertaining and skillfully composed reads.

        Just a note on ‘linnets’. You probably recall the old music hall classic below, which featured a linnet. I presume it was a common domesticated bird back in the day.

        My old man said “Foller the van,
        And don’t dilly dally on the way”.
        Off went the van wiv me ‘ome packed in it,
        I walked behind wiv me old cock linnet.
        But I dillied and dallied, dallied and I dillied
        Lost me way and don’t know where to roam.
        Well you can’t trust a special like the old time coppers.
        When you can’t find your way ‘ome.

  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., Joe and Brian have said it all so much better than I can… I would just like to add that I thoroughly enjoyed all three and your skill and wit shine in every admirably crafted line… lines that inspire. Thank you.

    • C.B. Anderson

      It’s the obverse side of the coin of sympathy. I’m glad to have connected. No need to thank me — my poems, as your poems, are offered freely for all to read, and I think that comes pretty close to the ideal of Charity.

  8. Jeff Eardley

    CB, wonderful, well deserved comments on a highly entertaining trio. The punchline to “Who shaves the Barber” is a coffee spluttering up the wall moment and I love “Quaaludes”….what are they I wonder??? Thank you for some light relief to our day of great sadness over here.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Yes, what the devil will you do about Charles III? Quaaludes are a powerful muscle relaxant. They would tranquilize a horse. In humans, additional effects are the obliteration of all inhibitions and an unwarranted feeling of power. It’s not a good sex drug.


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