Hearts of Darkness

a rondeau redoublé

A heart of darkness mocks and flouts the rules.
It robs our orb of honesty and light.
It tempts then toys with sycophantic fools—
Duped souls that sate the dark heart’s appetite.

Its syrup-drizzled spin masks acrid spite
That festers at its core then feeds and fuels
A yen for honeyed lies to win each fight—
A heart of darkness mocks and flouts the rules.

It promises a wealth of joy and jewels
To out-glow every melancholy plight,
Yet sucks the beams from sunshine as it pools,
Then robs our orb of honesty and light.

It poses as a gleaming-armored knight
Whose steed speeds way ahead of plodding mules.
With airs of care that blaze archangel bright,
It tempts then toys with sycophantic fools.

Those fools, who shun all independent schools
Of thought the bold have fought for, lack foresight;
Such blind, submissive minds are useful tools—
Duped souls that sate the dark heart’s appetite.

While cloaked in charm, it steals our blessèd right
To freedom as it taunts and ridicules,
Then prowls the bowels of hell with warped delight,
Gloating with its kin (those godless ghouls
With hearts of darkness).

 

 

To a Narcissist

“The power of choosing good and evil is within the reach of all.” —Origen

Your cutting tongue directed me to kindness.
Your torrid temper forced my peace of mind.
Your eye for finding fault inspired my blindness
To imperfections joy would never find.
Your twisted histrionics made me stable.
Your scorn for sympathy caused me to care.
Your lies and sly aspersions made me able
To prize the truth and value all that’s fair.

Your need for chaos steered me to the tranquil.
Your censure blessed fierce dreams with liberty.
Your greed for treasures made me ever thankful
For all the pleasures life feeds me for free.
Your icy negligence made me attentive.
Your malice switched on mercy’s soothing light.
Your yen to mete out pain was my incentive
To never let my spirit lose its fight.

Your ploy to hold me back made me much bolder.
Your plan to push me down urged me to fly.
Your bitter criticism and cold shoulder
Aroused salvation’s inner battle cry.
Your envy of achievement made me grateful
For all I am and all I aim to be.
And though your heart is hurtful, dark and hateful—
I thank you for the grit that it gave me.

 

 

Susan Jarvis Bryant is a church secretary and poet whose homeland is Kent, England.  She is now an American citizen living on the coastal plains of Texas.  Susan has poetry published in the UK webzine, Lighten Up On Line, The Daily Mail, and Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets).


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42 Responses

  1. Julian D. Woodruff

    These are both stunning, Susan. I don’t know which I prefer.
    “… suck the beams from sunshine” is breathtaking.
    A question: did you consider at all placing “never” ight before “lose” rather than “let”? (I hope the question isn’t merely irritating!)

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Julian – I appreciate your discerning eye. To answer your question, “To let my spirit never lose its fight” sounds (to me) like an inversion, though, it doesn’t to my Texan husband – this could well be another British/American grammatical anomaly, and, as I’m on an American site, I’m up for change.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Both versions sound okay to my ear, and I suppose it’s a matter of how you feel about split infinitives (“to never let”)

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        C.B. If it’s good enough for Captain Kirk to boldly go, it’s good enough for me 😉

      • C.B. Anderson

        Right you are, Susan. The important thing is that the words communicate what is meant. I think it was Winston Churchill who said in response to someone who criticized his ending a sentence with a preposition, “Bad grammar is something up with which I will not put.” This might be formally correct, but it isn’t English. Now, I got so caught up in the trees that I failed to note the forest. What I liked best about these two poems is that you pretty much exhausted the possibilities of the moral malfeasances perpetrated by the transgressor in each. And a note to anyone wishing to write a rondeau redouble: Compose the first stanza with great care, because all that follows will depend on it. You seem to have understood this from the start, because the repetends, when they occur, are syntactically coherent with the larger text. Many writers fail to make this happen even within the much less difficult villanelle form. Your mastery of complicated forms has always been a source of wonderment for me. You make it look easy, where others make it look hard. I vaguely recollect reading a comment by a prominent writer/critic that he would not, in the future, try to write a rondeau redouble because Wendy Cope had already exhausted the form. Boy, was he ever wrong!

      • Julian D. Woodruff

        Mr. Anderson,
        I am still trying to feel my way in the world of poetry, and so I asked the question about “never” in Susan’s 2nd poem. Your reference to Churchill is apposite: his obedience to the dictum on prepositions is alien and ridiculous. Susan’s placement of “never” is neither, so I wondered whether she was in any doubt: the alternative placement does indeed convey the same meaning, although “never” would (seem to) modify a different verb. (On the other hand, “to boldly go” is readily changed to “to go boldly,” so why not do so?) So two questions are begged: why are we taught not to split infinitives, and why, if the meaning remains clear, do we worry about inversions, at least in poetry?

      • Mike Bryant

        This is a great article on split infinitives:
        https://www.thoughtco.com/split-infinitive-1692127

        I didn’t really need to read it though, because Susan and CB have it exactly right. Split infinitives are fine when they improve the clarity of the sentence. Having reread the “to never” line, it would subtly change the meaning of the line if you unsplit that infinitive.

      • Julian D. Woodruff

        Thank you for the link, Mr. Bryant. It is an illuminating article. It makes me more confident when meter inclines me to the split infinitive, and at the same time perhaps a bit more cautious in the use of adverbs.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        C.B., I thoroughly appreciate your comment, and your Wendy Cope story has me smiling. Wendy Cope is from Kent in England – as a child, she lived in the next street from me. Her adept use of form has always impressed and inspired me. She writes with a humor and clarity that I can only aspire to. The rondeau redouble is one of my favorite forms. The repetition is a useful tool for emphasizing a significant point, which is especially good for humorous and political poetry. You are absolutely right about the first stanza. Choosing the opening lines with care is crucial to the flow of the poem.

        As for Churchill, he too lived in my county. He lived at Chartwell in Kent, a beautiful place I visited regularly. His command and love of English and magnificent oratory skills were impressive. I fear these attributes are waning these day, and I’m glad to part of a site that encourages these traditional values. I am always interested in the discussions beneath the poems – they have certainly broadened my literary outlook, and for that I am grateful.

  2. Russel Winick

    Susan:
    As always, your poems are magnificent, but “To A Narcissist” is particularly stunning. And likely quite widely relatable.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Russel. I will admit that this poem wasn’t written with politics in mind – I’m hoping your perspicacious words prove that this poem is “quite widely relatable” – that was my intention.

      Reply
  3. Yael

    Totally awesome, I love both these poems!
    After a little over half a century on this sin-stained planet I can really relate to the experiences that are recounted in these two poems.
    I see a delightfully eloquent train of truth in both of them.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, we are sisters in creativity and perspicacity. When you say, “After a little over half a century on this sin-stained planet” – number one, your statement is poetry at its finest, and number two, I am probably near to the same age as you and we are both well aware of the ultimate wonder of freedom. In our own creative ways we need to get the message out to the younger generation. I’ll write it… You sing it! 🙂

      Reply
      • Yael

        Thank you Susan, and let’s do it!
        At least that way we can say we tried:)
        I was able to make some progress on turning your poem into a song today. My husband and I recorded a guitar and a vocal track.
        After we got done recording my husband tasked me with learning how to use the software for his recording board so I can explain it to him, because he doesn’t want to bother with it. It’s a clever move on his part, as he can withhold the bass line until I figure it out.
        My previous recording plans all fell through due to my self-quarantined musician friends’ COVID-19 fears and some other musician life-style related complications on the part of the banjo player.
        I’m beginning to understand why recording studios charge so much money.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Yael, good on you for your determination to succeed with this project. I admire your tenacity. The difficulties you describe would have sent a lesser person running in the opposite direction.
        You are, indeed, a woman after my own heart. Go girl!!

  4. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, can I take this opportunity to congratulate you on winning the recent competition. I hope you can put your winnings towards the Winnebago book-signing trip to England in 2022. The Heart of Darkness is wonderful. We can identify with this now that our own gleaming-armoured knight is having a job staying on his plodding mule. “The Narcissist” is a powerful, uplifting anthem to battered wives, or even husbands everywhere. I am no expert on poetry but I know these are right up with the very best. Thank you again from England where we are getting most confused on the outcome of your recent election.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, thank you very much for your kind words. I’m thrilled to have won the competition – especially when the competition was so stiff. I like your interpretation of “To a Narcissist” – I wrote it to appeal on many levels and would love to hear readers’ interpretations. Having said that, I believe the words of “Hearts of Darkness” have never been more significant in today’s duplicitous society.

      Please don’t get confused on the political front. You know good from evil. Hungary knows it. Poland knows it – both having lived under the oppressive boot of the USSR. Macron is claiming to know it having condemned his country to eternal terrorism… and America knows it… but the current swamp of a government doesn’t – by design. That’s where we stand at present. The media aren’t telling you this in the UK, but there is plenty of evidence of election fraud that is being turned over to the Supreme Court. Let’s hope justice prevails.

      Reply
    • Russel Winick

      I agree with everything Jeff states, and also think Susan’s second poem could apply to someone burdened by a highly critical parent.

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Russel, how close you are to the origin of my poem. A narcissist is a narcissist whether it comes to family relationships or politics… and. It’s a very dangerous mindset.

  5. Bruce Dale Wise

    In times, like these, we find the need, here @ the SCP, to face the darkness that we see. and its brutality.

    Hats off to Mr. and Ms. Bryant.

    Reply
      • Bruce Dale Wise

        I was sorry my Texan charichord, “Wild” E. S. Bucaree, was erased; but c’est la vie. Long live Buckees!

        As to British, American, Australian, Indian, Nigerian, South African, Canadian, etc. “Englishes”, choose what you like. I, for example, don’t like most of what the crackpot Noah Webster did to the language; and I personally like to listen to New Zealand vowels.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Maybe I was a little hasty in thanking you, Bruce – why are you addressing Mr. Bryant when it’s my poem? I’m confused.

      • Bruce Dale Wise

        It was an oversight. I should not have included him.
        I was on board with Borges, reading Arthur Gordan Pym.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Coming from an accomplished poet and artist, that is a fine comment, indeed. Thank you, my friend.

      Reply
  6. Kathleen M Farrell

    Onward Susan, soar like Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    while the rest of us gulls – well – split infinitives.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Kathleen, thank you very much for your highly amusing comment – I am smiling. 🙂

      Reply
  7. BRIAN YAPKO

    I love both of these poems, Susan. Masterful, exquisite and insightful. I especially love the repetitions of words and phrases in Heart of Darkness, which not only give it musicality but suggest the somewhat frightening momentum of uncontrollable events. As for To A Narcissist — this should be required reading for anyone who thinks that fighting fire with fire will provide lasting solutions. Spiritual solutions are better. That is how we grow strong. I appreciate the skillful poetic technique, but I appreciate the message even more. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      I am tired of hearing about “spiritual solutions” to our problems, when the enemy is preparing to disembowel us. When will you pietistic types get real?

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        I completely agree, Joe, that kinetic mechanical solutions are called for in the current situation, and, luckily, legal gun-owners still seem to have the advantage in that field. You are absolutely correct in writing that limp-wristed efforts are of no avail in the ongoing conflict. Stand fast or perish!

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Joe S, I share your passion and disgust. I understand how you feel. I am sick to the pit of my stomach over the political plight of the UK and the US and have openly said so in many a poem published on this site. These two poems, however, are pitched above the fray of the day and left open to interpretations that may venture further than the political arena.

        Perhaps Evan should remove the “Deconstructing Communism” pointer as it may be misleading. Just a thought.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, thank you for your perspicacious and considered comment. I didn’t intend for these poems to be overtly political or blatantly sanctimonious. “Hearts of Darkness” is a warning to all of those who blithely and blindly follow the seductive sophistry of the times without giving a thought to the consequences – those “useful tools” who’ve been pivotal in steering history in the wrong direction… not that they will listen, but one never knows.

      As for “To a Narcissist”, I agree with you. One doesn’t have to become a narcissist to overcome and outwit a narcissist. In fact, I took my lessons under the cruel hand of a narcissist to heart and made absolutely certain I didn’t foist that same cruelty on those I bore responsibility for. It was far from easy, but it worked perfectly. Those who reaped the benefits of my lesson have made worthy contributions to society and I’m proud of their achievements and their attitude.

      To quote from Ecclesiastes, there is “a time to love, and a time to hate;/a time for war, and a time for peace” and the beauty of poetry is that it allows the reader to bring his own eye and his own heart to the poem. I’ve enjoyed all the varying comments my words have evoked and I appreciate your interpretations.

      Reply
  8. C.B. Anderson

    Brian, repetitions (repetends) to which you refer are REQIURED in a rondeau redouble’. And yes, fighting fire with water is a better idea, unless it’s an electrical or an oil fire.

    Reply
  9. David Watt

    These are great poems Susan, and they display your mastery of different forms. “To a Narcissist” speaks to me of guts and determination – attributes we require in abundance these days when resisting mindless conformity to dehumanizing agendas.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      David, thank you so very much. I always appreciate your sagacious take.

      Reply
  10. Damian Robin

    Hi Susan, thanks for you sensible insights spread out in clever poems. Don’t have a measured response to the details above so will post this. The mistakes are not deliberate but left in in haste.

    What’s so bad with typos
    when we know the name that’s named,
    when others put on false shows
    and the truth is up in flames?

    Where’s the Big Misdeed
    when you’re working on your own,
    and the darkness copies misfeed
    with the bulbs and candles blown?

    Where’s the wrong in sweating
    when you’re torched with flaming lies,
    when hotheads are forgetting
    the nation’s voting law applies?

    Why criticize the looks
    of a tv presentation —
    do you feel deep hooks
    heave up your fishy, stinky invention?

    Why pick the random faults
    of catwalk sum or spelling bee
    when all the content halts
    assaults on plain democracy?

    Reply
  11. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Damian, I love every aspect of your poem, especially the message it conveys. It takes guts to take the path less travelled poetry-wise these days, and I applaud you for travelling on the same path I do!

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Thanks Susan for your strong support. The message is important. Other than here and on my Facebook page (I’m not on Instagram or Twitter) how do we get our message out?

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Damian, I really have no idea. There aren’t many news outlets that will allow such freedom of expression, and in this era of cancel culture, we are very lucky to have SCP to air our dissident views. I know such views make a difference because I’ve been on the receiving end of backlash… and maybe, just maybe, those who were originally totally opposed to a hearing my angle, might agree with some of it. I feel change in the air. I really do feel that a lot of people are fed up with being told what to do and what to think. I hope I’m right. A big THANK YOU for all you do. Keep doing it!

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