Civics 101

Jejune excuses used too many times
Do not undo the doer from the deed:
A miscreant accused of many crimes
Is not the type of model children need.

A partisan devoted to a cause
Who votes his party, never mind the man,
Should not complain when his dark horse’s flaws
Prove worse than those that stained the also-ran.

Let’s hear it for the libertarians
Who, loathing government, arrive with brooms;
Down with the rigid doctrinarians,
Who should be sent directly to their rooms.



Get Out

Translucent cloud-like garments often worn
By women not afraid to show some flesh
Are silver-lined, unlikely to adorn
The female denizens of Bangladesh.

The art is in the detail—such a fool
You’ve been, ignoring words of simple fact
Your Muslim friend, whom we shall call Abdul,
Delivered so complete and so exact.

The game of trading food for oil works well
As long as the recipients of food
Have oil to give, for otherwise the hell
They raise exceeds the rising price of crude.

In oil-poor countries, rare the helping hand
That comes away with anything but sand.



More Epigrammatic Verses


First Things First

The older I have grown the less I’ve worried
About the disposition of my soul.
Until my body has been duly buried,
The prime directive is to keep it whole.



From one-celled animals we rose—
Exactly how, nobody knows.
And what our future state will be
Remains the greater mystery.



Convince your enemies that you are weak,
So better to effectively disarm them,
And press the point, whenever you may speak,
That your express desire is not to harm them.


Foreign Entanglements

There’s nary a man Afghanistan
Would not be able to swallow,
And nothing will save a witless knave
From victory that is hollow.


A Thief’s End

Those scalawags who eat our lunch
Without the courtesy of asking
As their reward, I have a hunch,
Will soon on Hell’s dark shore be basking.



A proverb cannot guide you once you’re dead
Since words of wisdom, friend, are for the living,
But it’s exactly as I’ve always said:
Your peccadilloes scarcely need forgiving.



Though all we count as lovable shall die,
In grace and resurrection we believe.
If there should come a time when we must grieve,
Then let such needful grief pass quickly by.



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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23 Responses

  1. Russel Winick

    Thanks for all of these good reads. I feel the first two epigrams in particular are classics!

    • C.B. Anderson

      You are welcome, and I thank you. Epigrams are a lot of fun to write, and sometimes they jell.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    I think I’m going to create an acronym for use at this website: KAND. It stands for “Kip Anderson Never Disappoints.”

    The epigrammatic verses are absolute jewels. The meters are picture-perfect, the flow is as smooth as oil, grammar and syntax are precise, and the diction is mature. “Civics 101” and “Get Out” are brilliant and concise comments on sociopolitical issues.

    The rhymes of “fool” and “Abdul,” and “flesh” and “Bangladesh,” and “libertarians” and “doctrinarians” are master strokes.

    • C.B. Anderson

      First let me say that the third line of the first stanza of “Civics 101” should read:

      A miscreant accused of many crimes

      Perhaps Mike or Evan will correct the text.

      I’m flabbergasted, Joseph, if only because I value your opinion above that of most others.

      As a matter of fact, in the original version of “Civics 101” I had rhymed “libertarians” with “authoritarians,” but when I looked the decade-old manuscript over, I saw that I had merely rhymed “-tarian” with “-tarian,” so I searched high and low and came up with a better answer.

  3. Margaret Coats

    Interesting that “Evolution” and “Finis” are the closed quatrains among this set of epigrammatic verses. Profound and clear– but I do like the crafty “Camouflage” as well.

    In “Civics 101,” libertarians are becoming more attractive, since the one place they favor government activity is at the borders. But there and elsewhere, I think they may need something more powerful than brooms. And I must put in a plea for the rigid doctrinarians who are strict constructionists about the Constitution. But maybe you have clever apothegms about them in your more advanced courses.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I’m not quite sure I understand what a “closed” quatrain is, and I’m not even sure that craftiness is better than direct confrontation.

      I was thinking of very solid brooms, on the order if Norse battleaxes.

      I don’t have anything about strict constructionists yet, but you have planted a seed.

      • Margaret Coats

        A closed quatrain rhymes abba rather than abab or xaxa. The purpose of camouflage is to avoid or delay direct confrontation–but it can protect you while you are getting into position for using battleaxes.

  4. Norma Pain

    I enjoyed reading all of these poems C.B. The epigrams are very clever.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I’m glad you enjoyed them, Norma. “Clever” is what the “C” in my name stands for.

  5. Cynthia Erlandson

    Good stuff! I laughed out loud at “Get Out”, especially the rhyme of fool with Abdul, and flesh with Bangledesh.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I have a habit of being playful when dealing with fairly serious issues. Whether this is a good or a bad habit is for the reader to decide.

  6. Roy Peterson

    Your verses are as profound and witty as they are perfunctory. As one of Scandinavian descent, I love your comment about brooms being battleaxes! I suspect there is more than one meaning behind the title of “Get Out.”

    • C.B. Anderson

      I hope, Roy, that you have had a chance to watch Vikings, a Netflix tv series, I think. But why do you say “perfunctory? Part of the meaning of he title “Get Out” is: don’t get involved in the first place.

  7. Cheryl Corey

    C.B., I always enjoy your epigrams. Might you soon have enough for a book?My favorite line of “Civics 101” is “Do not undo the doer from the deed”.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Probably not enough for a whole book, Cheryl. Whether I ever do have enough for that will depend on how long I live.

      Did you notice that the line you quoted also assonates very well with the line just before it?

  8. Brian A Yapko

    Excellent poetry across the board, C.B.! Your witty but deeply sensible “Civics 101” offers me some corroboration for the validity of some of my current political thinking. I see how readers are loving the libertarian/doctrinarian rhymes which are indeed very clever. But even more I like your extremely basic rhymes of “broom” and “room” simply because the imagery of sweeping out the dirt and of sending ideologues to their room really pricks the proud balloon of political pomposity and places politics in proper perspective.

    Your “Get Out” is an amazingly innovative use of sonnet form to make a geopolitical point — also with some of the unexpected and exciting rhymes of which you are the master.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I thank you, Brian. And yes, it does seem that when we are dealing with professional politicians we are dealing with unruly children or even something worse. I don’t write much blank verse, so rhymes from me (in a different sense) should always be expected. I am addicted to rhyme, which might be why I always write poems, but seldom real/true poetry, a distinction Samuel Johnson liked to point out.

  9. James A. Tweedie

    Always a treat.
    Wit and rhyme complete.
    Perfect as well.
    Sound as a church bell
    No argument:
    Well-earned compliment.
    More than enough,
    All of it good stuff.

    • C.B. Anderson

      A condition we share, James, is the blessing/curse of an over-active imagination. Imagine that!

  10. Shaun C. Duncan

    The epigrams seems a perfect vehicle for your skills and these are absolutely masterful, which goes some way to explaining how you can write a sonnet like “Get Out” which seems to contain so much in 14 lines but feels completely at ease and unforced in its form.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Coming from you, Shaun, these compliments are heady stuff, in consideration of which I hope never to disappoint you. We do what we do and can only hope not to displease our peers. I’d rather receive a single word of approval from an Aussie than a thousand pounds of chocolate.


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