Milking the System

We waited, we have waited, and we wait.
Delays continue to increase the cost
Of doing business.  Every magistrate
Can understand the hours and dollars lost

But yet cannot, according to the Law,
Provide a satisfying remedy.
It doesn’t matter what they really saw,
Or how reliable their memory,

When witnesses without a leg to stand on
Are all you have with which to make your case.
It’s good to spring surprises you have planned on,
If only to recoup and save some face;

But better still, if those you fight in court
Are more inept at hiding crimes than you
Are—that’s just how it goes these days.  A tort
Is not a piece of cake, but people sue

Each other for the flimsiest of causes
Because the penalty for doing so is nil
No matter what the letter of the Law says
About the merits of the case.  An ill

Wind blows across the land, a noxious breeze
That works no good for anyone except
Rapacious lawyers who collect their fees
From plaintiffs and defendants less adept

At feasting on the System.  Win or lose,
They come out winners in a legal game
With rules they feel entitled to abuse
As they see fit, pursuant to a name
Embossed in gold.  If I were in their shoes …
I must admit, I’d likely do the same.




As the summer slows down to a crawl,
When the apples are nearly in season
__At the threshold of fall,
__It’s foreseeable then
__That a rush of unreason
Will arise from endorphin-rich brains
Of indigenous women and men
__Who applaud when it rains.

In the meadows they’d mown only once,
Where the forbs and perennial grasses
__Are the groundwork of hunts
__Yet to come, there’s no doubt
__All the lads and their lasses
Are ecstatic and ready to roll
In unharvested hayfields, without
__Any aim or control—

Though a seasoned partaker might say
That composure and caution don’t matter:
__At the end of the day,
__Whatsoever was planned,
__There’s a wind that shall scatter
The most carefully husbanded seed
Far abroad on this bounteous land,
__Irrespective of creed.

So lie down in the glistening dew
And behold the near reaches of Glory,
__For the limitless blue
__Is a channel whereby
__The continuing story
Of affairs that have often recurred
Is transported direct from the sky
__On the wings of a bird.

There are times when the will may forget
What the conscience must later remember,
__But the deepest regret
__Is the failure to live
__To the full.  It’s September,
And October’s no less an event
Where there’s nothing for God to forgive
__And no need to repent.

                                                     First published in Blue Unicorn (2014)



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.

The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments.

CODEC Stories:

18 Responses

  1. Roy E. Peterson

    C.B. I am particularly drawn to “Milking the System.” The number of victims is unconscionable and incalculable as attorneys continue to escalate unconstitutionally procured evidence and scourge the judicial system.
    The sentence, “Win or lose,
    They come out winners in a legal game
    With rules they feel entitled to abuse
    As they see fit, pursuant to a name
    Embossed in gold,” is especially compelling. We have seen the abuse at the highest levels, and I am taking aim directly at the Department of Justice.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Hell, Roy, it’s a funny grim world we live in. Only by watching some of the better lawyer shows on tv can one retain any trust or confidence in the System.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    What an amazingly intricate rhyme scheme and meter in “September”! I make out ABACBDCD for the former; as for the latter, each stanza has two trimeter lines, three dimeter lines, two trimeter lines, and then a concluding dimeter. Also, the rhymes in line 3 of every stanza are feminine.

    “Milking the System” hits one with the absolute force of what it says: Law, as practiced now in the United States, is a tangled web of lies, shyster tricks, bluster, and corruption. I have a friend involved in litigation who for seven years has been bled dry financially by the sheer evasion, postponement, meaningless depositions and motions, and simple harassment by the lawyers of a very rich New York county.

    We need tort reform and a curtailment of pointless, predatory litigation. But will it happen? No, not at all. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are the party of lawyers, and will do nothing to upset them.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Alas, Joseph, everything you write about the Legal System is true. And if you can pile up enough anecdotal evidence, then you’ve got yourself a trend.

      As for the structure of “September”, I got the idea from the Australian poet Stephen Edgar. He is the absolute master of composing complicated nonce stanzaic forms replicated throughout the poem. Anyone interested in this sort of thing should find a way to read some of Edgar’s poems immediately. He might just be the best formalist poet writing in English today.

  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    “Milking the System” is well-phrased wisdom (and you must have grinned when you rhymed causes with Law says)! “September” is quite remarkable for its wonderful consistency in both its rhyme scheme and its meters, which vary in number within the stanzas, yet are arranged in the same pattern from stanza to stanza.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Yes, Cynthia, I grinned plenty when I wrote the first poem. Repeating nonce stanzas faithfully is always a good idea, lest one fall into an unstructured heterometric collage.

  4. Russel Winick

    “Milking the System” hits home, since I often saw litigation rules and procedures serve to delay or avoid justice. And the political “fixes” were typically a bad joke. Take “mandatory arbitration.” If Party A screwed Party B out of $100K, most of the arbitrators I appeared before could not care less about justice meaning Party B should get $100K from Party A. Instead, their calculus was what number would virtually force both sides to settle, given the costs and delays inherent in continuing to litigate. So a $50K settlement, for instance, would make the arbitrators feel proud of themselves, and the politicians would use such settlement statistics to show how great they were at “improving” the system. Always unmentioned is the small fact that Party A got away with half of the screw job, and Party B got only half of what s/he deserved. No justice at all. C.B. has done a fine job of portraying this issue.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Yeah, Russel, you know more about it than I do. And I can only imagine what persons of integrity must go through while practicing in this profession.

  5. Brian Yapko

    Both amazing poems, C.B. Your “September” poem is full of gorgeous phrases, especially “But the deepest regret is the failure to live to the full.” This poem has a fascinating structure well-analyzed by Dr. Salemi. What I note about this structure is the way it forces the reader to slow down and even stop in places. That serves the contemplative theme of this poem well, especially calling attention to lines like “when the will may forget/What the conscience must later remember.”

    What can I say about “Milking the System”? It’s a great poem which zeroes in like a laser-beam on how lousy the system of litigation is in our country (not that I really know much about whether other countries are superior.) The scenario described by Mr. Winick is certainly one I can attest to and the horror that Dr. Salemi describes also seems way too familiar to me. Yes, a surfeit of lawyers are on the rapacious side and deeply-invested in gamesmanship, delays (albeit only if its advantageous), overbilling, and a variety of other practices that are despicable. But it’s a mistake to blame only the lawyers. It starts with Constitutional provisions which create entire bureaucracies concerned with things like bankruptcy, appellate practice, criminal procedure, property rights, eminent domain. Then the plumbing gets even more mucked up with rules of criminal procedure, rules of civil procedure, rules of evidence, rules for discovery, rules for the calculation of damages, committee-written jury instructions, and the list of laws, rules and procedures that have to be followed, all of which are justifiable in an ideological sense but the net result of which is to impede the administration of justice. And this is only the tip of the iceberg as politics and obstacles and rights and concerns about jury fairness and overtaxed budgets create a system so titanically overwrought and entrenched and impossible to navigate as to render the idea of true Justice well-nigh impossible. Blame the lawyers (there’s a reason why I refuse to do litigation after having been tortured by it for 30 years.) But also blame the judges, the politicians, the drafters of the Constitution, no shortage of lying clients and witnesses with agendas, not to mention everyone who has been involved in creating and advancing the Common Law going back to Henry II. And on the issue of personally witnessed injustices — I could write a book. You rightly identify tort law as one of the worst. However, family law is even worse. Dealing with broken bones is a lot easier than dealing with broken hearts, betrayal, child custody lies (he molested the children!) etc. Litigation represents people at their rock bottom worst and family law litigation even lower than that.

    • C.B. Anderson

      For certain, Brian, there is plenty of blame to go around, not least of which is that a majority, or at least a large plurality, of legislators are attorneys.

      Please see my response to Joseph Salemi in regard to Stephen Edgar.

  6. Stephen Dickey

    The mastery of fitting “colloquial” sounding rhymes as in

    Each other for the flimsiest of causes
    Because the penalty for doing so is nil
    No matter what the letter of the Law says
    About the merits of the case. An ill

    into such sophisticated argument is humbling and something to behold.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I can say this, Stephen: It’s easy to lose one’s way amidst the intricacies of the interplay of word sounds and the argument. In such a maze it is crucial to keep a firm grip on the thread.

  7. David Watt

    C.B., I could see the influence of Stephen Edgar in ‘September’, but also your own skillful conversational style. Although this piece has a complicated structure, the consistent stanzas tie it together beautifully.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Well thank you, David, but where would I be if I had been unable to “tie” things together?

      • David Watt

        I can’t recall any of your poems ever being loosely constructed, even with a complex form.

  8. Paul Freeman

    In ‘Milking the System’, you’ve pointed out some great failings in today’s society. A few years ago, I returned to the UK and was shocked by all the ‘if you’ve been in an accident…’ type TV ads from law firms touting for (creating) business for themselves.

    I was equally shocked by my step-niece asking my mum, “‘ow many compos (settled compensation claims) ‘ave you ‘ad’?” To which my mum said ‘none’ and totally flummoxed my step-niece.

    What a world!

    And thanks for bringing September in a temperate climate to life, CB.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Sometimes you Brits are more American than we are. I don’t have a step-niece, only granddaughters, so I don’t know much about that.

      I’m glad, if I read you right, that I brought September alive for you, but the temperate climate in which I live always boasts a pleasant, if not spectacular, September.

      • Paul Freeman

        Living in a desert, a poem like ‘September’ is always a joy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.