The Truth about Fall Colors 

I am October’s most submissive bitch,
And just when I believed I’d struck it rich,
The gold that hovered overhead was blown
Away before I’d claimed it for my own.

And now the maples turning scarlet red
Will shed their leaves on every flower bed
Before I’ve had a chance to see them high
Above in contrast to the azure sky.

I feel that I’ve been robbed too many times,
In various ecologies and climes,
Of what I’ve always deemed my rightful due,
Though everywhere I’ve lived the sky’s been blue.

Perhaps the lofty hopes that I project
Are something minor gods cannot effect.
If so, then I will tender a request
That they attempt, at least, to do their best.

It’s always risky to rely on gods
To back your cause and even-up the odds,
For lesser deities are not much better
Than rough barbarians hell-bent for leather.




Imagine jack-o’-lanterns eating watermelons
Or prisoners reciting verse to fellow felons.
And picture Genghis Khan in drag, appearing solo
To entertain a wanderer named Marco Polo.
So think, with concentrated mind, on all of this
Before deciding that it wouldn’t be remiss
To simply disregard unusual events
Because they seem a mockery of common sense.
And be aware that what is designated myth
Is always at the heart of things, the very pith
Of what may well be called eternal consciousness.
The salutary herbs, among them watercress,
Have much to do with how this whole affair will end,
For nothing in the world is able to transcend
The fundamental pull of raw emergent needs:
It isn’t ever wrong to stanch a wound that bleeds.




When contemplating wind-swept islands,
____The Hebrides
Should come to mind, where spells of silence
____Behind each breeze

Are few and far between.  It’s true,
____Moreover, that
No chemist ever made a glue
____ To fix a hat

On skulls too numb to run for cover
____When brutal gales
With fury like a jilted lover
____Dismantle sails.



Advanced Vermont Folk Medicine

Epitomizing autumn, apples grow
On gentle slopes of green New England hills,
Where cider is fermented, as we know,
And turned to spirit in illegal stills

Physicians monitor throughout the night
In case a second or a third opinion
Is needed to assure a sybarite
That jack instates the thirsty soul’s dominion.



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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22 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    There are some fascinating thoughts in these four well-constructed poems. You captured the essence of fall colors that enchant and then quickly fade away, or are blown away, as you opine. I am still contemplating “Freight” as the title of the second poem, but was inspired by these words: “And be aware that what is designated myth Is always at the heart of things, the very pith…” There is a lot to say about that concept. The breeze of the Hebrides seems as though it came from your experience. I have a feeling “Advanced Vermont Folk Medicine” may also come from experience or knowledge and relates to that in many other states.

    • C.B. Anderson

      The title “Freight”, Roy, as best I can tell, refers to the ideas and images we carry around with us that weigh us down. I’ve never been to the Hebrides, except in spirit when I pour a dram of Talisker or other island malt Scotch whiskies. Vermont Folk Medicine is a book that a lot of people read back in the late sixties when I was in college. As it happens, fermented apple cider is sometimes put in barrels and allowed to freeze in the winter cold. The water molecules freeze and separate from the alcohol, leaving a block of ice with a liquid core that has a high ethanol content. Whether or not this is truly distillation, it’s a nice trick.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        I’ve heard about that New England trick to freeze the cider and thereby eliminate the excess water to have a really strong drink. The result was called applejack, which I assume is what you mean when you use the word “jack” in the last line.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Indeed, Joseph. If you look up “jack” in a good dictionary, you might be surprised at the size of the entry. And if you go a ways down the definitions you will eventually come to the one that says applejack.

  2. ABB

    The opening line of “Fall Colors” is pure gold. LOVING IT.

    Do these four poems put you over the 1K mark yet?

    FYI, trying to have episode 7 up by the end of this weekend. Got bogged down with articles to write.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Evan liked that opening line as well, Andrew. I don’t think I’ve reached 1,000 quite yet, but I’ll know better when I tally up my publication credits for the past couple of months. I can’t wait to watch episode 7, but I wondered whether the camera on my device was tilted at a bad angle that day.

  3. Margaret Coats

    “What’s designated myth/Is always at the heart of things, the very pith.” I’m into salutary herbs as well, and give precedence to raw emergent needs rather than emerging markets, even when I need a market. Many thanks for this favorite Freight!

    • C.B. Anderson

      None of us, Margaret, ever get quite enough of dem dere good herbs. God knows, every spring I’ve got tons of dill sprouting up all over my modest veg garden patch, because I let it go to seed. Let me know if you need a good recipe for refrigerator dill pickles, though you need to grow your own pickling cukes unless you can find them at the market.

  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    I enjoyed the very intriguing content (especially “Freight”), and form (especially “Navigation”) of these poems.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I scarcely know myself, Cynthia, what “Freight” is all about, though the first line suggests some sort of macabre botanic cannibalism. It must be a Hallowe’en poem. “Navigation” is essentially an alexandroid, though the feminine end rhymes in the 1st & 3rd stanzas raise questions about its proper execution. But at the end of the day, it is your enjoyment that is paramount.

  5. Brian A. Yapko

    Four stellar poems, C.B., with (for me) a most unexpected voice heard in The Truth About Fall Colors. The sardonic tone upends the normally melancholy tone we get in Autumn poetry. It is utterly unique. And isn’t it amazing that everywhere the speaker has lived the sky has been blue?

    I also very much enjoyed the unexpected imagery in Freight. Genghis Khan in drag is fantastic, but so is the very idea of this Mongol conqueror entertaining and retaining a Venetian explorer who does not belong in that milieu. History is fraught with such oddities. This is a poem in which point of view means everything. How we interpret events very much depends on whatever baggage it is that we bring to the party.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Blue skies are supposed to be a good thing, Brian, so why is the narrator complaining about not getting enough fall color? Probably because he is a cranky old man. This fall, here in New England, it rains almost every other day, so the sky is mostly gray. And the leaves are a bit lackluster this year, possibly due to an excess of precipitation.

      If Marco Polo interests you, I highly recommend reading a novel by Gary Jennings called The Journeyer. It’s set up as Polo’s secret journal and is as funny as anything I have ever read.

  6. Paul A. Freeman

    I particularly enjoyed ‘The Truth about Fall Colors’, it being such a different take on the usual autumn poems.

    Thanks for the reads.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Really, Paul, it’s hard to come up with something new to say about autumn. I don’t know what I’ll do next year. And how did it come to pass that the fall is the only season with two names? And, for that matter, if pale tints of blue are called light blue, how come pink isn’t called light red?

  7. Patrick Murtha

    There is much I truly enjoyed with the first two stanzas of “The Truth of Fall Colors.” But I too feel as if I’ve been robbed with the last three. I saw where you seemed to be going, and was excited to get there with you. But when I got where you were going, I found myself on the other path that diverged in your yellow wood, and I am sorry that you were not there.

    Being disappointed, I almost left off reading. And I’m glad I did not. I truly delighted in your “Navigation.” Now that was simply delightful. A poem I would recite at a campfire with my friends.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Sorry, Patrick. Where did you want me to go?

      The one that delighted you is an alexandroid, a fixed form invented by Jared Carter.

  8. Shaun C. Duncan

    The opening and closing lines of “The Truth About Fall Colors” made me laugh out loud. In fact the opening line is one of the finest I’ve ever read – it’s musically beautiful, but shocking in content and it completely disarms the reader expecting just another fine ode to Autumn. The meditation on hope versus brutish reality which follows is quite sublime and the closing line brings us full circle with an image of the lower gods which is both arresting and wickedly amusing.

    “Freight” is equally good, with some striking imagery and a stirring defense of myth. As usual, despite the brevity and clarity of your verse, you give us so much to mull over. I still don’t know quite how you do it.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Thanks, Shaun. How are the fall colors in Australia?

      I don’t know how I do it either. It just happens.

      • Shaun C. Duncan

        Sadly, we don’t really get “fall” as such. The natives here are all evergreen and the seasons range from “hot” to “not hot”. In summer the gum trees will drop branches, some of them larger than a full-grown apple tree, but that’s about as close as we get. The place where I live is closer to desert conditions which has its own beauty but I must admit reading great autumnal poetry leaves me feeling somewhat deprived.

  9. Monika Cooper

    I guess all the ways Fall cheats us every year are the very ways New Englanders love her for. It occurs to me that Frost answered his own oven-bird’s question in the conclusion of Hyla Brook. And: Not yesterday I learned to know The love of bare November days. Fall’s glory is in its diminishments.

    “Freight” makes me think of the “black swan” theory, what I know of it. The unprecedented was precedented all along, we just dismissed the precedents as outliers, “myth.” Or how the piece of a puzzle that doesn’t fit might be a piece to the puzzle for which we’d do well to abandon the one we’re working on. “Before deciding that it wouldn’t be remiss To simply disregard.” That kind of piling of multiple negatives so that in the end the reader’s analysis bows to her intuition seems so characteristic of your voice and maybe central to the poem, of which you say you yourself hardly know what it’s about.

    I love “Navigation” and I do think of the Hebrides. It’s only skulls numb enough that get to feel the rain!

    I didn’t quite get “Advanced Vermont Folk Medicine” although the education about “applejack” helps. Are the physicians the midnight tenders (and tasters) of the still? As a side-note, my respect for medicine far exceeds my regard for “health-care” and long may the tradition of folk medicine advance.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I deeply appreciate all of your comments here, Monika, though you asked few questions. Physicians are indeed the midnight stillmasters, and applejack has only one purpose that I know of. That “piling of multiple negatives” you mention was a good catch. I spent a good bit of time trying to unravel it myself, but got nowhere. I wish I knew what I was thinking when I wrote it. Some things, I guess, are best left un-unpacked.


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