A Journal of Contemporary Arts 






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.


Return to Poems Menu

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