A Journal of Contemporary Arts 







Just half your age plus seven:
      The oriental formula
      That’s used to calculate
      How old your future spouse
      Should be, ideally, when
      It’s time for marriage vows.
All sages under heaven
      Intractably judge factual
      This system, and relate
      The peace within a house
      To nothing other than
      Fond hopes this scheme allows.


      (The formula as written
       as long as you’re a man;
       it’s twice your age
       Less fourteen.)


No harm in criticism;
      Attributing disputable
      Conclusions to a thesis
      Is fair, though facts unveiled,
      On redirect, the lass
      Is never much too young.
But was it witticism
      Or ordinary ornery
      Device to swear by Jesus,
      The man has rarely failed
      To be too old to glass
      The times she bit her tongue?





Reluctantly, I walk the road
That my dear Savior, Jesus, strode:
I heal the lame, I soothe the dead
And drive the demons from your head.


It’s not my right to do such things
Since I am not the King of Kings,
But still I do them anyway
No matter what my critics say.


I can’t deny my given talents,
And though my soul hangs in the balance,
I’ll keep on doing what I’ve done
Until my earthly course is run.


It’s not my fault that I’ve been given
A license sent direct from Heaven
To practice therapeutic arts
Benevolent in all their parts.


It’s likely that the AMA
Will try to shut me down one day
Because they hate the competition
And can’t foresee their own perdition.



A flower hasn’t much to teach
That we can put to any use;
Regeneration’s out of reach
For those of us who fear the noose


That’s always lurking in the wings.
One blossom, or a myriad,
Will do the necessary things
To serve the species …Period!


Who’ll be the first to have the bee
Assault her inner hidden places?
Each flower hopes it shall be she.
Neglected blooms may put on faces,


As pansies are so wont to do,
To lure a pollinator in
And please the plant from which it grew,
For this is how all seeds begin.


Long courtships and incessant wooing
Would just delay the set of fruit
And be the mother plant’s undoing,
Her purpose shaken to the root.


We humans tend to complicate
What flowers do with little fuss.
A lifetime with a single mate
Must be what has been planned for us.


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The lengths he’d go to for his intimate
associates were always measured on
a sliding scale. His effort knew no quit.
He’d often, for the sake of pleasure, gone

the extra mile. Perhaps you wonder whether
what worked for him worked just as well for them.
It did. The object was to come together,
for his approach to liaisons was dem-

ocratic and demotic. He was fond
of outcomes leaving everybody winners,
and never less inclined to form a bond
with righteous sorts than with committed sinners.

A man who can adapt to any season
is good to go, and needs no other reason.


“Just look into my eyes,” the hypnotist
Commands. The problem is that I’m a skeptic
With symptoms of a chronic pessimist.
I don’t demand a life that’s antiseptic,

For I have learned to get along with germs;
And though I’m not immune to strong suggestion,
With heart disease I haven’t come to terms:
My lust for her has never been in question,

But hers for me is hard to understand.
She’s beautiful and achingly erotic,
So why would she desire to lend a hand
To one uptight incurable neurotic?

She lets her fingers wander up my thighs
And says again, “Just look into my eyes."


I thought her word was money in the bank,
As solid as the coin from royal mints,
But little did I know how much she drank

When she indulged the urge to fill her tank.
That time she said I was her charming prince
I thought her word was money in the bank,

But looking back, I have myself to thank
For being blind to signs, and now I wince
A little. Did I know how much she drank

When I came home and our apartment stank
Of schnapps? Perhaps she gave her mouth a rinse,
I thought. Her word was money in the bank

Until the evening when she drew a blank
And couldn’t say my name. So many hints,
But little did I know how much she drank.

Our long affair—if I may be so frank—
Comprised successive out-of-wedlock stints.
I thought her word was money in the bank,
But little did I know how much she drank.


Since our days seemed unnumbered, like birds on the winds
               That blow over the earth,
We were stunned by how quickly misfortune rescinds
               What was granted at birth.

We’ve experienced pleasure, have traveled and grown,
              And been given free rein,
But our time was just borrowed and never our own,
              So we shouldn’t complain.

We had hoped for a lifetime of three-score and seven
              To come up with a plan,
And a subsequent pleasant vacation in heaven
               For a limitless span.

Such provisions are normally left up to God,
                And it’s good this is true,
For we creatures who spend all our lives treading sod
                Do not know what we do.

Though the Father’s decrees may be vexing for Men,
               They’re immutable laws.
Any Buddhist expecting to live life again
               Is just grasping at straws.




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Her smile is diabolically angelic,
Her glance a swipe of emery, her wit
As coarse as whole-grain mustard. Reared on melic
Endearments lavished by a pair of proud
Indulgent parents disinclined to sit
In judgment, she is laudably endowed

With confidence but also has a clear
Disdain for adulation that equates
To moral insufficiency: A dear
Young fellow told her she was everything
A man could want; she said she never dates
Good boys whose only virtue is to fling

Bouquets of cloying roses. Football is
Her favorite sport—its draw has much to do
With sudorific contact. Suitors quiz
Her on the stats and standings in the league
So far this season. She inspects the crew
Who vie to man her vessel, pulls a swig

Of beer, then yaws her body up the stairs
To take a shower, cotton garments clinging
To contours graven into several pairs
Of locked and loaded eyes. They always look,
But most pretend to fault the Siren singing
And not themselves:  If only she could cook …


Before the fire goes out, please add another log
or two, and while you’re up turn off the kitchen lights—
but only after you are certain that the dog
has done his business in the yard, and you have let
him in and locked the door. I’m pretty sure tonight’s
the night I’ll find out whether you can hold your water,
so grab the whiskey from the shelf and don’t forget
the glasses. We have many things to talk about,
Including liberties you’ve taken with my daughter;
it’s time we had a man-to-man and hashed it out.

The fact you didn’t bolt suggests that you have learned
a thing or three about respect, and that is good
for both of us because as far as I’m concerned
you made yourself my business when you told my girl
you wanted her. Just so I’m not misunderstood …
I think you’ll do, and I’m relieved—I’d hate it if
I had to shoot you on the spot. She is a pearl,
without a doubt, but underneath there’s still an oyster
that’s sharp with iodine. Now pour another stiff
one for us both—talk’s easier when throats are moister.

Our choices plot a twisted path. You chose my Jenny,
and that’s a credit to your taste, but just because
she loves you too is not to say there won’t be many
times when your life plays different from the way you thought
it might. Be honest, and admit you knew is was
a gamble from the start. I understand how women
can overmatch a man—the girl I married taught
me that, and she was Jenny’s mom. In one-on-one
collisions, yielding to the wife makes you seem human:
the same advice I lately gave my natural son.


For God, all things are possible—except
when what we’re thinking of is one of those
the precepts of His Cosmic Law foreclose.
Creation done, He backed away and slept

on it, and later (as another act
of kindness) added reason to the mix
so that our minds should have a better fix
on what is real and what is not. In fact,

it always was His Nature to despise
a contradiction; furthermore, He stays
within the bounds He sets, for in His Eyes
a hypocrite’s the worst. Yes, there were days

when He Himself was tempted to create
a stone so heavy even He would find
it hard to lift. But that’s why He’s so great—
the Universal Order of His Mind

would not permit such obvious abuse
of basic logic—that is why He’s God:
His acts reflect His Being (though this loose
interpretation scarcely gets the nod

from tenured theologians). Anyhow,
consistency is not the only clear
delimitation tempering His Pow-
er. (Things He simply will not do are near

at heart to those He can’t, and only raise
distinctions lacking difference.) God can not
impede free will and force you to allot
a portion of your life to fervent praise

for Him, or make you unto others do
what’s right. He cannot pause the sun (though some
may disagree), or let a nun become
a priest, or make a Muslim love a Jew.



      De gustibus non est disputandum

“There’s no disputing taste” is sometimes said
In order to conceal antipathies
Entrenched inside the guarded speaker’s head.
A suitor so unwilling to displease

A pretty girl whose taste he finds distasteful
Should seek employment as a diplomat
(For not to do so seems a little wasteful,
Considering the times). It’s likely that

The girl desires a challenge. One should play
It cool, but not too cool. Aggressive ploys
Are worth their weight in gold, unless they weigh
So little that they sound like jingles boys

Compose while walking home from middle school.
The girls (apprentice women) have a knack
For telling true contenders from a fool
Whose one redeeming virtue is a lack

Of overblown self-confidence. Good taste
Is often nothing else than making sure
Expansive sentiments are not misplaced;
Good timing is the art of making more

Of what’s available. To disagree
But not be disagreeable just proves
A lad is serious. Good taste, we’ve read,
Is timeless.
                 Now, regarding you and me,
We have a taste for anything that moves,
And when it’s time to move into the bed-
Room, several other rules of thumb apply.
Be sure to kiss her; kissing does a lot
To minimize the chance she’ll question why
She's even there with you, and gets her hot,

Besides. See to it that you’re both undressed
In half the time it takes for you to say
“I love (to do) you.” Sup her plumpest breast
As though it were your last, without delay.


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It's sad how many persons never know
Directions in which they should rightly travel.
They go wherever they decide to go,
And soon their poorly planned designs unravel,

Which leaves them in an ill-constructed place
Where utter alienation is the norm.
A vain attempt to save a little face
Will not a dissipated life reform,

And neither will a promise to atone
Erase the livid stains that mar the skin.
One must, when one believes he's all alone,
Raise up the light that's hidden deep within

And wear it like a jewel-studded crown.
To be a good example for oneself,
A merit no detractor should put down,
Is better than a trophy on the shelf.

Signaling unearned virtue's not the point
And should in every instance be avoided:
No Magi from the Orient will anoint
A boy whose inner gifts were thus exploited.


A restless sea below the idle stars
lent substance to the vague disquietude
enveloping the men
who savored single malt and smoked cigars
out on the cedar deck
above the beach. The remnants of the food

they’d eaten earlier resembled wreck-
age washed ashore. “I’d do it all again,”

the older of the two declared at last.
He sipped and puffed, then added, “No regrets.”
The younger shook his head,
remembering some moments from his past,
and poured another ounce
into his glass. The sum of unpaid debts
incurred on surreptitious flights amounts
to little once the faith of youth is dead

and buried. Better to forget, perhaps,
than dwell too much upon the leaden weight
of history, unsure
of whether living down a shameful lapse
in judgment is as bad
as dying loved and honored in a state
of unfulfillment. Nothing’s ironclad
in worn relationships, and there’s no cure,

preventive or remedial, for grief.
The eastern sky now showed a lemon wedge
of moon; a tethered dog
began to bark as waves broke on a reef.
“And what about your wife?
The way she yammered set my teeth on edge
last night. So, do you think there’s any life
left in your marriage?” Strained, the dialogue

continued. “Brother, I’m not sure I care.
It isn’t very likely she will trust
me anymore, and I
won’t live like that. Besides, this girl—I swear—
could raise the dead and make
them dance. I haven’t felt such rampant lust
in nearly twenty years. My one mistake
was not pursuing sooner. If I die

tonight, I’ll die a happy man.” Quite well
the younger fellow understood desire
too strong to countermand,
for he himself had grazed the fringe of hell
another balmy autumn
some years before. He’d dared to play with fire,
and he was glad his wife had never caught him.
So little light there was, but so much sand.


While I was wolfing lox and bagels
A buxom woman did her Kegels
To tighten up her pelvic floor,
Thus proving that cream cheese is more

Than meets the eye. I slipped a slice
Of ripe tomato in -- how nice
Of me to go the extra mile.
Good Lord! -- if you had seen her smile

You would have married her at once.
She didn't need the full nine months
To bear a child, for she possessed
Impatience at its very best.

It only took a little while
To march that woman down the aisle.
Alas, the bridegroom wasn't I,
But some much more impulsive guy.

Now, let this be a lesson for
Those men who ripened flesh adore:
No cantaloupe or watermelon
Will satisfy a latent felon,

So if you see her half undressed,
And you are suitably impressed,
Then strike while still the iron's hot
And know, at least, you took a shot.


A semblance of contrition can, sometimes,
satisfy the need for bland social norms,
just as archaic phrasing and forced rhymes
can flesh out the strict demands of fixed forms.

Sincerity's a luxury dearly
bought with much unnecessary friction
between ideals you long ago nearly
believed in and next year's firm conviction.

Opposing theories as to what a good
life consists of seem equally valid
once it is recognized and understood
that existence is a mesclun salad.

Ignoring, for the sake of argument,
your laudable impulse to lead a life
based on moral values, are you content
with the way things stand? Consulting your wife

is not a bad idea. Surely she
has formed opinions of her own, to which
you are entitled by marriage. Agree
with her, unless you feel it's time to switch

your loyalty -- fresh starts often require
the compromise of principles, your own
or someone else's. It's wrong to desire
gold stars until the right seeds have been sown.





Spring is a season flush with fertile mud,
When birds that winter-over farther south
Are sacrificial harbingers whose blood
Will quickly spill and overfill the mouth

Of any old quiescent family river
Meandering along its riverbed.
An overworked but enterprising liver
Uncorks the mind aboard a wine-soaked head.

And so it is, we swear by bonded whiskey,
Which works in drought and likewise flood, though not
By any stretch the slightest bit as risky
As burners turned up high but then forgot.

At first, we thought we heard our mother calling,
But then we realized the sky was falling.


By early June, the morning sky begins to lighten
At least an hour or two before the sun appears
Above the east horizon, poised to warm and brighten
The fertile fields already sown with hybrid seed.
Abundant light assured, a farmer only fears
Extended droughts that spoil the crop but spare the weed.

There's water everywhere! And it's too bad that salt
Presents a problem, even for the enterprising
Agrarian savant, who'd never think to fault
The earth, the dusty mote to which we cling, the raft
That bears us through the starry deep. The sea is rising,
A plight that's likely far beyond our art and craft

To remedy. The charge that we're self-victimized
Does nothing but incite political debate
And heated arguments among the polarized
Antagonists, which only adds to global warming.
The willful inability to moderate
One's speech might be the first bad habit worth reforming.


The heroes of our youth have gotten old.
In fact, that's how it's been for many years.
Please promise you won't make me say I told
You so, but no one cares about our tears.

A runny nose is just a flow of snot
(Perhaps a sign of nascent allergies)
Commemorating what the world is not.
Remember this each time you start to sneeze.

By some auspicious stroke of luck or fate
(No use to second-guess or wonder why),
Although we've noted grievous losses late-
Ly, neither one of us shall ever die.

You will, if you should doubt this vatic statement,
Observe your own decline without abatement.


There's always been a special place in Hell
For human souls whose sins are darker than
The darkest written down in Satan's plan --
So dark, the Archfiend must look close to tell

What ilk of creature straightway from its tomb
Arrives. A simple beast obsessed with pelf?
Or more the spitting image of himself?
(When Satan sought to compromise Eve's womb,

It wasn't out of lust for worldly gain,
But rather to inflict eternal loss
On beings in the purview of the Boss
And thus assure the sovereignty of pain.)

Intrigued, he trains these souls to be the mentors
Whose mission is to mold a fitter demon
With codons from their self-corrupted semen,
Instilling traits of flagrant non-repenters.


In Heaven there's a special place as well
(As if there's anyplace up there that's not
Especially special), warm but never hot,
Where saints and other noble spirits dwell,

A place where one plus one is more than two,
A land where milk and honey overflow.
And there, a grove where pomegranates grow
And Christians resurrect their inner Jew.

In such estates good hearts have always dwelt,
Though probing minds may founder in the gray
Of questions: Why does God seem far away?
And why are frozen doctrines slow to melt?


What purpose has an afterlife without
Some further end? Can anyone be sure
Eternity allows for nothing more
Than static limits fixed beyond all doubt?

Imagine victims standing with their foes
On stages in the after-afterlife,
Discussing whether residues of strife
Shall be effaced before the curtains close.


The Scriptures are an artifact of pen
And sword where words of God are roughly writ,
The final refuge of a hypocrite
Who utters truth but lacks belief. Amen.


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C.B. Anderson Poems in EPO Online Prior to 2023