The Shortfalls of Empirical

Sorry, Iowa.

Each night is different from all previous
And therefore not the same as those to come.
The ways of Nature can be devious:
They test experience and leave us numb

To expectations we would otherwise
Have nurtured and applied to form our plans.
One only needs to gaze into the skies
To know the gift of foresight isn’t Man’s.

Stuff happens, as they say, with little warning
And makes the best among us doubt ourselves—
We still have no idea, come the morning,
For what rare mineral the miner delves.

More riches lie in Heaven than on Earth
Is what the worthy clerics like to say,
But though we tithe for all that we are worth,
It’s rare that they’ll give us the time of day.

The one thing that our lives have taught us well
Is that face-value doesn’t make the coin.
Though chips may fall right where they always fell,
Tell that to someone stranded in Des Moines.



The Long View

Now spring is here, and we are still alive.
We know this by the pitch of mower engines
That’s shifting as they doppler down the drive.
In this old world of honorable mentions,

It’s up to us to mark the changing seasons
With alterations in our attitude.
It’s not a secret why we all have reasons
To keep ourselves from posing in the nude:

For one thing, we don’t think we’re good enough
For aught but rather unattractive pictures;
And for another, when we’re in the buff
We’re sensitive to certain social strictures

That matter to prospective future spouses.
It’s best to keep our record clean and clear
And not keep too much baggage in our houses
If we expect to live another year.

Someday we hope to settle down for good,
Raise kids and chickens, grow a few tomatoes,
And be a pillar of the neighborhood.
A lesser plan than this is small potatoes.

There’s only so much anyone can carry
While climbing slopes of legendary hills,
And it’s a very grave mistake to marry
For short-term gains or transitory thrills.



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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19 Responses

  1. Mark Stellinga

    C.B., as a proud born & raised Iowan I take no offense whatsoever from your hilarious opening piece :-), and, in reference to poem #2, I must admit I always made it a point to take my prospective companions swimming before asking them to wear my class-ring! Thanks for the 2 fun pieces…

    • C.B. Anderson

      I’m happy, Mark, that you take no offense at my snipe at Iowa. I’ve been to Iowa (Iowa City), and I had a very good time there. And saw lots of corn. This was back a few decades. And yes, swimming comes first.

  2. Roy Eugene Peterson

    My grandmother came from Carroll, Iowa, but I would rather be stranded in Texas than in Des Moines. The last two lines of “The Long View” correlate to the high level of divorces these days. Well said in both cases!

    • C.B. Anderson

      Your approval is much appreciated, Roy. I’ve never been stranded in Texas, but I have hitchhiked through there, and I have never experienced anything worse than interesting experiences and revelatory encounters.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    I’m happy, Mark, that you take no offense at my snipe at Iowa. I’ve been to Iowa (Iowa City), and I had a very good time there. And saw lots of corn. This was back a few decades. And yes, swimming comes first.

  4. Russel Winick

    Both good stuff, Sir. This city kid went to college in the middle of Iowa (Grinnell), and learned to appreciate the rural life. The last two lines of the second stanza of Shortfalls, and the final two lines of Long View, are both 500 foot home runs!

    • C.B. Anderson

      I thank you, Russel. Though I’ve never been known for my power, I am pretty good at hitting for average. One of my freshman classmates at Wesleyan University, who went by the moniker of Penguin Dave, transferred to Grinnell. Appreciating the rural life is a good enough reason to go anywhere.

  5. Jeremiah Johnson

    So, this is beside the point, but, as an art nut, I had to point out that the man in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” was Wood’s dentist, and the gal next to him was the dentist’s daughter. Note that he’s “guarding” her with his pitchfork – possibly from a suitor whom he disapproves of?

  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    Very good work again, for as I say, K.A.N.D.

    It seems to me that the poems present two points of view that are at odds. In “The Shortfalls of Empirical Knowledge” the suggestion appears to be that we don’t have any trustworthy knowledge at all. But “The Long View” argues we naturally work on the assumption that we can plan ahead and take all proper precautions.

    Plenty of girls today have learned the hard way that it’s a bad idea to let nude photos of yourself be taken. As for marrying for “short-term gains or transitory thrills,” that seems to be a perennial human failing that will never be fixed.

  7. Damian Robin

    Very nice work, Kip, as in ‘Fine Art.

    I like the unexpected lack of end stop at the end of the first stanza.

    I had to look up ‘Des Moines’ but am still no better off from the (shallow) research I did. But a clever rhyme.

    There are so many fine touches – ‘face’ related to ‘coin’, the growing and raising of organic things (including kids) to ‘small potatoes’.

    Without tub-thumping, the first poem makes good glory to the divine and ends in down to earth humour. All very clever in the best of senses.

    Nicely topical in the second poem whose first stanza is wonderful description. Then rebuts of determinism including the humour of butt-nakedness.

    Very accessible splendour. Thank you, Kip.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Most parts of Iowa are thought to be flat and boring, Damian, but as I pointed out above, it depends on whom you are with. I am glad you were able to find something you liked from these two.

  8. Monika Cooper

    “A lesser plan than this is small potatoes.” We’re very lucky as a human race that, despite everything, every generation seems to include young men and women who take it upon themselves to re-invent the wheel and keep the great family growing. Responsible teenagers with serious ambitions like starting a family and “growing a few tomatoes” are the true salt of the earth. And victory gardens are the wave of the future! Which is making me think I should see to this season’s over here.

    Enjoyed both poems very much.

    • C.B. Anderson

      It does seem, Monika, that we must either keep growing or die.

  9. Margaret Coats

    If we insisted on empirical knowledge, who would ever get out of kindergarten? And learning from teachers or books is easier to carry than all the things for which we end up paying excess baggage charges. Nice reflections, C. B.

    • C.B. Anderson

      And just look at what happens, Margaret, when private musings go public.


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