On Second Thought

When words fail,
__perhaps it’s not the words at all,
__but hobbled minds that cannot call
__a lucid image to avail
____the powers of description.

When love fades,
__it might not be true love that’s lost,
__but rather that endearments tossed
__with shoptalk salad-wise evades
____all but precise decryption.

When lips lie,
__consider that the thoughts behind
__the words from out a tangled mind
__all logic and good sense defy,
____though they be offered truly.

When hearts dim,
__do not assume that they’ve grown cold;
__they may have foundered acting bold
__in waters much too deep to swim,
____in feelings too unruly.

When friends go,
__the going isn’t what’s so tough,
__but knowing when you’ve had enough
__and also getting them to know
____as though from introspection.

When hopes sink,
__it’s not hope’s object that you miss
__so much as that expectant bliss,
__when for a moment you could think
____your life had new direction.




So many mysteries, so little time.
A patient human being might divide
them into lists: a long one for the great
unanswered questions—many lifetimes strung
together insufficient to address
the least confounding there; a shorter one
for puzzles thoughtful effort well applied
can finally unravel and decide.

How is it possible for honest men
to disagree?  Intelligence, good faith
and simple facts are all abundantly
supplied on either hand, and yet they draw
conclusions separated by a land
devoid of bridges, daunting in its sprawl.

Why is forgiveness often easier
to grant than to accept?  The grudges held
by those who’ve perpetrated injuries
will tend to fester, even when the folks
they’ve victimized have gotten over them—
such brutal judgments yesterday invokes!

Since Mother Teresa is surely bound
for sainthood, how come the adage that no
good deed will go unpunished still retains
the ring of truth?  Supposedly it’s good
Intentions—not good deeds—which are the thing
that  paves the roads in Satan’s neighborhood.

And why, O why do people contemplate
such queries long before they ascertain
which list they should be on?  And even when
enigmas have been properly assigned,
the follow-through is likely weak—the big
mistake that tips an overreaching mind.



No Greater Love

There in the cloudless, chilly western sky
Two stars hang low above my sleeping town,
One very bright, the other dimmed way down.
The classics scholar knows Dioscuri
Is still the proper term, and might well frown
Should someone speak of them as Gemini.

The accidents of birth can sometimes spell
A person’s fate, the more so if the child
Is issued from a large blue egg.  Not styled
For modern times, that tale, and just as well:
Imagine, mon frère,  how we’d be reviled
For wanting half of heaven, half of hell.

Those brothers—one a mortal, one a god ….
Please tell me whether you could possibly
Forego unending life for love of me
And lay yourself down in the very sod
That covered up my poor dead bones.  Feel free
To think a while before you give your nod.

I’m not alleging one of us will live
Forever, or that boundaries overrun
Are justified by favors left undone.
It’s clear that we have different gifts to give,
And likewise take.  God knows, it’s much more fun
To be the sediment than be the sieve.

Theology we’ve grown accustomed to
Delimits choices:  Olympus now is out
Of bounds, our sacrifices more about
Good form than moral province.  Let’s make do
With what’s been granted us, and never doubt
We’ll forge a pact that passes your review.

So while we brood, do you recall the frolics
We had when we were younger men? That time
I bailed you out when you had done a crime?
I hope the memories I raise don’t bollix
Our chance to reach some fair accord. For I’m
Not Castor here, dear friend, but rather Pollux.



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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13 Responses

  1. Stephen Dickey

    I really like and admire how you dismantle metaphors in “On Second Thought.” There are creative, conscious metaphors and then those mundane ones people use all the time and are hardly aware that they are speaking figuratively.
    Will have to wait to read the other two.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Yes, Stephen, metaphors are often cliches that deserve dismantling. Ageless wisdom often goes unquestioned, which is a mistake. And cons because ider these two old saws: “Look before you leap” and “He who hesitates is lost.” Which one do you choose to believe? Who was it that said that all language is metaphor? I think the idea is that no utterance is really literal because our understanding is completely bound up with age-old figurative conventions.

  2. Roy Eugene Peterson

    All three poems personally seem “introspective,” as you mentioned, and are enigmatic. The depth of thought requires more than one reading to ascertain the intended meanings and intentions. They are at once intriguing and complex imbued by your clever mind with substantive marrow. The interesting rhyme schemes add attitude to the verses.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Thanks, Roy. A good poem probably also requires more than one writing. Creating novel rhyme schemes is a sheer joy for me, and the hard work is duplicating it stanza after stanza.

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    When I read these three remarkable poems, the first thought I had was how very lucky we at the SCP are to have a major talent like C.B. Anderson here — a largely unrecognized and unrewarded talent whose work has been ignored by a mainstream po-biz community enamored of stupid, posturing, postmodernist crap.

    I don’t want to bore people here with excess analysis. Let me just comment on that dazzling third poem “No Greater Love.” It takes the ancient myth of the twins Castor and Pollux (one mortal , and one divine) and the complex theme of their sometimes shared, and sometimes bartered or exchanged qualities, and reconstructs it into a talk between two brothers coming to some kind of understanding. It’s a dramatic monologue with a silent interlocutor (the narrator and his brother).

    I don’t know Kip Anderson well enough to ask him if he has a brother. It’s none of my business. But if he does, this poem is a profoundly sensitive comment on fraternal conflict, on possible reconciliation, on brotherly reminiscence, on accepted differences, on forgiveness. The poem is so deeply moving that it wrings my heart.


    • C.B. Anderson

      I do have a brother, Joseph, and at one time I had two. I am happy to share that information with you, just as, at one time or another, you mentioned, in passing, your own brother, Rosario. As it happens, I wrote this poem many years ago, at the beginning of my publishing days. I assumed that when I wrote it I had researched the myth sufficiently that I didn’t need to check up on myself.

      As a side note, your analysis is never excessive but always incisive.

  4. C.B. Anderson

    Alert, Mike Bryant: In “On Second Thought” stanza 4, line 4, please make the initial capital “I” a lower-case “i.”

  5. Paddy Raghunathan


    I second Joseph’s comments. There’s so much thought that goes into your poetry, and yet you accomplish it with meter and rhyme, and you also make it entertaining and moving for someone who is not familiar with a subject. Your poetry reminds me of Mike Juster’s poems.

    Best regards,


    • C.B. Anderson

      Well thanks, Paddy. If you are referring to A.M. Juster, I am quite gratified by the comparison. I try to keep things interesting, for otherwise I myself would lose interest.

  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., I am in awe of these poems… every one of them. The forms, the content, the wisdom… the knowledge of your craft and the world in general. There is much for me to learn on this shining page, and I will be returning to it… regularly. We are indeed lucky to have a major talent like you here at the SCP, and I am most grateful… thank you!

    • C.B. Anderson

      Those times when I fail to comment on your poems published here, it is often because either others have said everything I wanted to say or that I am simply speechless. You know as well as I do how much fun it is fitting nonce or fixed traditional forms to a poetic idea. If I seem to know something about the world, it is because I have lived a little bit, and I hope to live a bit longer. Joe Salemi has been much too kind to me lately. And you are most welcome.

  7. Shaun C. Duncan

    These are extraordinary poems, C.B. Easy to read at first glance but you really need to sit with them for a bit to even begin to appreciate the depth of thought behind them. Despite the complex rhyme schemes there’s not a single line which feels forced and your use of enjambment keeps the musical effect subtle enough that it would be easy for the casual reader to overlook the incredible skill behind it all.

    • C.B. Anderson

      As it is sometimes put, coming from you, Shaun, these words mean a lot to me. I suspect that what you most like about my poems is roughly what you tend to put in your own, about which I have not written enough. Yes, prosody is a craft like any other, or, I should say, unlike any other.


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