.

Fungible Assets

A pint’s a pound the world around.

Now, lay your oars athwart the gunwales
And let your aching muscles get some rest.
Relieving strain on carpal tunnels,
Your doctor says, is always for the best.

What use, my friend, is all the rowing
When final destinations are unclear?
You do not know where you are going;
You only know: the end is very near.

So haul your craft into the dry dock
To caulk the leaks below the water line
Before some unforgiving shylock
Demands from you another pint of brine.

.

.

A Crossing Too Easy

Beside exotic riverbanks
In every land and every clime,
Sore travelers kneel and give their thanks
For what they will anon receive.
Though some cry out, “It isn’t time!”
Their frail complaints are overruled
By wiser judges who believe
That gratitude is always best
For any scab, or muscle pulled,
Along life’s often grueling road.
And after all have taken rest,
They journey onward to the ford
Where they’ll be bidden to unload
Their burdens ere their feet get wet
From striding forth to meet their Lord
And so receive His solemn blessing,
By which He’ll cancel every debt,
Including those found most distressing.

.

.

Bottled Up

You tell me that the thought of leaving me
Grows more appealing each disputed day
And that our vows to spend eternity
Together—moot.  I don’t know what to say.

You’ve made it clear you strongly disapprove
Of Friday nights, when I’m so busy “tyin’
One on” that you’re convinced I’m one remove
From making drunkenness my private Zion.

We’re past the point of useless argument—
The counselors we hired made sure of that—
But still you wonder where the money went.
Let’s say it went to bury Arafat,

How very thoughtful when you show you care
For me by foisting programs which involve
Twelve steps.  If ever once you’d been all there
For me, there’d be no problem now to solve.

So darling, lift your heart and keep on thinking,
And I will do my part: the heavy drinking.

First published in Contemporary Rhyme (2005)

.

.

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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26 Responses

    • C.B. Anderson

      I guess, Phil, that it is always existentially sad when one lacks direction, especially if others are demanding their pound of flesh.

      Reply
  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Praise the Lord for His cancellation of our debtor transgressions. “Bottled Up” in my mind relates to Veterans who have paid some heavy price in their lives, this one in a Southern Asia war, and then returned home to a situation where a loved one does not make sufficient effort to understand their mental state that compels them to find ways to cope with what they have seen and done on the battlefield. The sad part is they also fail to understand the mental stress that was placed on their family.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Cancellation of debt is, in general, Roy, a good thing, but it’s just too easy if the debtor is allowed to get by without having to observe the niceties of confession, contrition and atonement.

      I had not imagined the narrator of “Bottled Up” to be a veteran, but I guess that works.

      Reply
  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    All these are pure Kip Anderson, and of a high order of excellence. Let me say that “Bottled Up” expresses a viewpoint that is often pushed aside or ignored in conservative formal poetry — the idea that on some occasions vice is a necessary palliative for certain human ills. Besides poems in praise of virtue and piety, how about a few more like this one?

    The speaker in “Bottled Up” needs his drinking, and clearly points out that the spouse or companion who is badgering him about it, and forcing into “twelve-step” programs,” is just as much a torment to him as any of the side effects of alcoholism.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      The key to being a functional alcoholic (or a casual imbiber), as you must well know, Joseph, whether the choice is Scotch or bourbon, is keeping the experience an aesthetic one and not letting it become anesthetic. You want a few more “like this one?” That’s what I am telling myself right now: just a few more. Virtue and piety have no need of my praise.

      Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Thanks, D.P. A poem must be interesting if anyone should be expected to read it. Cleverness is just the icing.

      Reply
  3. Brian A. Yapko

    All three are brilliant in their unique way. I can only point out a couple of highlights as time presses. There’s something haunting about “Rowing” that I am both attracted to and disturbed by. Perhaps it’s that ominous phrase “the end is very near.” The alternating 4 and 5 line stresses keep it unpredictable, as do the extremely clever lines (drydock/Shylock, etc. )

    The intricate rhyme scheme of “A Crossing” created a fantastic sense of momentum. But of the three, I think I most enjoyed the rawness of “Bottled Up” which is a fascinating character study of an enjoyable sardonic speaker and his spouse. The rhymes tyin’ and Zion had me chortle. The closing couplet really made me wonder what’s next for this interesting couple.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      “Rowing” offered a lot of interesting rhyme possibilities, e.g.:

      You don’t know what it is you’re towing.

      and

      Please cover up — your soul is showing.

      And notice that the tetrameter lines all have feminine endings. This way, every line is roughly the same width on the page.

      The rhyme scheme in “A Crossing …” is one I have worked with for many years. Essentially it’s the logical extension of an ABACBC stanza

      What’s in store for this couple is probably some sort of armed truce.

      Reply
  4. Monika Cooper

    Your broodings in “A Crossing Too Easy” are certainly onto something. Do you know “A Lyke-Wake Dirge”? (a rather harsher take on the “crossing”).

    Much tormented sarcasm in “Bottled Up”: life-long love in a labyrinth of conflict and “past.” “If ever once you’d been all there For me, there’d be no problem now to solve.” He’s shifting responsibility, of course, but he’s also admitting his ancient hope for fullness of love.

    “Fungible Assets”: another “crossing” poem? Procrastination in the face of the inevitable: and it’s so very human.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I do not know of that dirge, Monika.

      The narrators I come up with seem to have minds of their own.

      I suppose that “Fungible Assets” is a poem in which the crossing is not accomplished.

      Reply
  5. Daniel Kemper

    Loved the gunwales/tunnels rhyme. Loved fungible assets all in all. Such an elegant hinting at the ending. Masterclass in objective correlative.

    “Bottled Up” reminded me of Leaving Las Vegas. “I can’t remember if she left because I started drinking or if I started drinking because she left.”

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I’m not sure I know what an “objective correlative” is, Daniel, unless it’s something used to relieve constipation.

      I’ve only left Las Vegas once, and that was when I was on my way to Tucson.

      Reply
  6. Jeff Eardley

    Great stuff CB. A pint for a pound is a bit of a joke over here where it’s nudging five pounds or more. “Dry dock”with “Shylock” is pure poetic genius. “Bottled up” for me was quite chilling as I know couples who have gone through this. I was puzzled however by the Arafat reference. Never mind, I enjoyed several readings of these gems from a great poet. Thank you.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      The Arafat reference, Jeff, was just another way of saying the money was wasted for no good cause.

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Thanks CB. I recall, back in the day, that for his birthday, Arafat asked for the Gaza Strip. Someone misheard him and he ended up with the Gazza Strip. (Gazza was a famous footballer back then) The Palestinian leader looked quite the part!

  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., your poetic skills are always a pleasure to behold, and this trio of engaging works exudes a wry wisdom that taps into the human condition with a literary finesse I aspire to. Your poems always make me smile… and think… deeply.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Literary finesse? Sometimes I feel I use words like a bludgeon, but if they make you smile & think, well then, that’s all I ever set out to accomplish. Poems, I think, should always be more entertaining than a crossword puzzle.

      Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I like that one too, Cheryl. The poem (with the epigraph) is a lot more complicated than it might appear on the surface.

      Reply
  8. Dave Whippman

    My favourite of these three is “Bottled Up”. It’s worthy of Ogden Nash, yet for all the humour, it touches on an ever-present problem in society – addiction.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      It depends, Dave, doesn’t it, on what one is addicted to? Addiction to truth or justice cannot be a bad thing. Now, substance addiction is another matter, but is it anything other than a moral failure? God knows, there’s enough of that going on, omnipresent or not.

      Reply
      • Dave Whippman

        Well the debate as to whether substance addiction is an illness or a moral issue seems never-ending. Good work anyway.

  9. Adam Sedia

    These are very well crafted and do a very good job of bringing the reader into the voice’s (the poet’s?) mind. The first two are autumnal, and convey a sense of closeness to God that I think comes only with old age. They also remind me of the final painting in Thomas Cole’s series “The Voyage of Life,” where the old man is at sea knowing his life is at an end, yet looking skyward as the heavens open and pour out light.

    (As an aside, whenever I hear the word “fungible” I can’t help but think of mushrooms.)

    The sonnet takes us to a different, but not so different place. Having dealt with enough divorces in my career, I think you give a good portrayal of what is frequently the man’s perspective and without giving her a word capture the shrewish wife he has to deal with (or does she only seem shrewish because she disapproves of his drinking?). It has a psychological depth reminiscent of Robert Browning.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Who are you calling old, Adam?! I love your “autumnal” characterization, and I’m sure Evan likes it as well. Maturity to decline, indeed.

      I don’t have a lot of fungible assets, but I eat as much fungus as I can — if it’s not poisonous, then it’s probably very good for you.

      Fortunately for me, divorce does not seem immanent in my life, and as far as Browning goes, I haven’t read a lot of him, but I did once recite “My Last Duchess” on Thespian Night at Morrisville (PA) High School back in the sixties.

      I love reading your comments.

      Reply

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