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That Day of Infamy

∼ December 7th, 1941

Zeros burst through bluest skies
__Like stealthy birds of prey,
Set to swoop and pulverize
__Pearl Harbor’s soul that day;
That day of scarlet rising suns
__On warfare’s wicked wing;
That day the blaze from bombs and guns
__Unleashed the Reaper’s sting.
Black billows swallowed brackish air
__In draughts of sooty smoke
From splintered ships in Hades’ glare
__Where sulfur rose to choke
The life from lungs and hope from those
__Who saw the devil dance;
That day the guile and gall of foes
__Slew every fighting chance.

Remembering the bold who paved
__The path that kept us free.
Remembering all those who braved
__That day of infamy.

.

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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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36 Responses

  1. Russel Winick

    Thank you for another great poem, Susan. Pictures went through my mind from many of your lines.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for dropping by and commenting Russel. I appreciate your encouraging words.

      Reply
  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    A fine and appropriate poem to honor this solemn day in American history. The use of ballad meter is a surprising choice, but Susan Bryant makes it work. Also, setting off the last two lines as a rhymed couplet composed of participial phrases adds just enough of a clipped restraint that makes for powerful closure.

    I would suggest one change: in line 16, “slayed” should be “slew,” which is the correct past tense for the verb “to slay.”

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Joe. I know it sounds rather strange, but, I didn’t choose the form, it chose me. This happens sometimes. I start writing a sonnet and another form sings to me in the background. I have to abandon the sonnet and sing along with it. I’m wondering whether I’m completely crazy or if this happens to others. Perhaps I lack discipline… I’ll work on it.

      Thank you, too, for the “slew”. Oops! As soon as you mentioned it, I knew. It’s not a word I use often, but it seemed appropriate for this poem.

      Reply
      • Cynthia Erlandson

        The form usually presents itself to me along with the subject of the poem. I’m glad to read your description of the form choosing you!
        Thank you for the patriotism here. (I also enjoyed the abundance of alliteration!)

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you very much, Cynthia. As a relatively new citizen, I am fascinated by the history and politics in my new country. I am also fascinated by the writing process, and how (for me) a poem seems to take on a life of its own. I am aware of all the poetic techniques required and expected, but sometimes my work skims the fringe of the unknown… even to its author. Now I know I sound insane – a small price to pay for embracing my favorite pastime. LOL

  3. Margaret Coats

    Lines 17-20 offer a meaningful pause, as they turn the poem into a solemn ceremonial for today, changing the past tense of the earlier lines to present. Very well done! The illustration is interesting, with Hawaiian leis being placed over 48-star American flags, and thus dating the picture before 1959, when Hawaii was proclaimed the 50th state. My slight suggestion would be to say in line 13, “The life from lungs and hope from those,” making plural both objects of the preposition “from,” and ending both with the “z” sound.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Margaret, and thank you for your excellent advice. I’ve changed the poem accordingly. I’ve been reading about Pearl Harbor and heard from a work colleague today that Elvis Presley contributed to the Arizona Memorial. When I look at the accompanying image, it reminds me of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii”, although this film was made in 1961, after Hawaii was made the 50th state.

      Reply
  4. Sally Cook

    Susan, yes, a resounding yes! Remarkably, not many people don’t remember what happened last week. My “76” flag is flying high in the hopes that some others may give a thought and send a prayer to those who made America a safe haven for us by their sacrifices.
    As for the poem, excellent as usual. You have found your metier, my friend.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment, Sally. I’m thrilled to hear your “76” flag is flying high, and I too hope that others never forget, and are always grateful for, the sacrifices made for our freedom. You are a poet after my own heart.

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      I appreciate you dropping by and leaving such a wonderful comment, Christopher. I’m thrilled you enjoyed my poem.

      Reply
  5. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, what a wonderful accompaniment to the superb Smithsonian TV series on the war in the Pacific which I am currently watching. The brutality of this conflict is heartbreaking. Thank you for another gem.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Jeff. You are right when you mention the “brutality of this conflict”. Two first-hand accounts inspired my poem and the sheer savagery of this surprise attack took my breath away. The first account began with this opening; “It has been said that when an old person dies, it is like a library burning down”. It seems society has scant respect for the wisdom of age these days, and we could certainly learn an awful lot from those who fought for our freedom as that gift diminishes by the day.

      Reply
  6. Yael

    What a beautiful way to commemorate a historical event, albeit a sad one. Thank you Susan, I love poetic history lessons and reminders.

    Reply
  7. C.B. Anderson

    Strangely, December 7 is not even a federal holiday. How odd it is that it would take a British immigrant to bring this anniversary to our attention. I think, Susan, that you might be a better American than I am.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, C.B. I’m sure I’m not a better American than you… the day I stop craving crumpets, Marmite, and toad in the hole, I’ll know I’m well on my way. Till then, I’ll do my very best. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Gail Root (Dowler)

    Very nice. I like the way you think–the substance, as well as your expression. (Am sharing ‘The Narcissist’ with my divorce attorney, so she can use it to encourage her other clients.) You seem like a hopeful person to me.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for your comment, Gail – I’m glad you like the poem. I’m also thrilled to hear my Narcissist poem is serving as encouragement to those who are going through a tough time with divorce. It’s often hard to see a ray of sunshine when you’re under a black cloud, and if a well meant poetic word can spread a bit of light, I’m all for it.

      Reply
  9. James A. Tweedie

    As of last February there were only two USS Arizona survivors still living. WW2-era buildings on Hickham AFB, Pearl Harbor, and Wheeler AAFB still bear the scars of bullets and shrapnel. I have visited the Arizona memorial many times, both as a tourist and as a guest at various military ceremonies. All who visit are piped aboard for the Arizona is still a commissioned naval vessel while the USS Missouri, which is moored in line with it directly to the south, is not. As those who lived through that day pass away it is imperative that its memory be preserved beyond the bounds of the state of Hawaii. Susan, I commend you for remembering . . . and for reminding us to remember as well.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      It’s not just the survivors of the Arizona. Almost all military personnel who were present at Pearl Harbor on that day have been gathered to their fathers. The newest eighteen-year-old sailor at that time is now closed to 100 years of age.

      Reply
  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Thank you very much, James. The older I get the more interested I am in the Greatest Generation and the pivotal part they played in preserving our freedoms. We owe them our gratitude for the gift they gave us, and I hope our future generations will preserve it… I’m beginning to doubt they will, which is why I’m rather vocal on the subject.

    This is one of the articles that inspired my poem. It includes a first-hand account that says so much more than my poem does. I captured the essence – this speaks of the real horrors those there had to face:
    https://www.rd.com/article/pearl-harbor-firsthand-account/

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you for sending the link to the article. I read it, and appreciate even more now what these men did for us.

      Reply
  11. C.B. Anderson

    I’m sure, Susan, that more Americans would eat crumpets if anyone here knew how to make them; Marmite? Maybe not so much. A Brit once told me what is was, and as near as I can remember, it’s some kind of condensed brewery sludge. It can’t be any worse than schmaltz, though.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      C.B., the only crumpets for me are Warburton’s and they don’t sell them here. Mike and I tried to follow a recipe, and it fell flat – literally. I love Marmite, though I firmly believe it’s all to do with how the smell and taste transports me back to fireside days with hot buttered crumpets and a thin spreading of Marmite… “thin” being the key word when spreading Marmite on one’s crumpet (LOL). Mike spread a Texan sized layer on his when he first tasted it and he now loathes the stuff! As for schmaltz, it can’t be worse than pickled pigs’ feet – a Texas delight that I won’t be partaking of!

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Then you really want to stay away from the ones that aren’t pickled. Pig’s Knuckles, as they are called up North, are porcine metacarpal bones that provide large pieces of cartilage along with a few specks of meat. Not as bad as it sounds. Schmaltz is pure chicken fat, just as bad as it sounds, but people get used to it.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      When I was in England, the term “crumpet” also meant a pretty young girl, or sex in general. So if a Brit said “Let’s go pick up some crumpet,” he usually meant let’s go find some cute females. Don’t ever walk into a posh London hotel-restaurant for High Tea and ask “Can I get some crumpet here?” You’d receive an icy reply, something to this effect: “Sir, this is NOT an East End bordello!”

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Hilarious, Joe! And, you are absolutely right on the crumpet front – a word that features highly in British comedy for that very reason. An awful lot of crumpet was served up at Tarts and Vicars parties which I hear have now been banned at Oxford University… no surprise there! I remember my mum insisting I wore panty hose under frill-less granny-sized knickers beneath my French Maid outfit in case I slipped over in my stilettos. The fancy dress party was held at St Josephs Academy, an all-boys Roman Catholic academy located in Blackheath, London in the early 80s… I look back in horror. LOL

  12. Joseph S. Salemi

    Susan, you don’t have to change your eating habits just because you have become an American. In my family, we have been preparing the same Sicilian dishes, according to the exact same recipes, that our grandparents brought here in 1906.

    There is one English dish I love, and that is shepherd’s pie. But I have to make it myself, because nobody in the U.S. has a clue as to how it should be done.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, I agree with you. Mike and I have had great fun cooking. We have combined our culinary heritage and eat Texlish style in our house. Mmm, shepherd’s pie. That was the very first meal I made for Mike and he likes it a lot more than Marmite. Old family recipes are the best. I’m glad you’re keeping yours alive. I was wondering if you used lamb in your shepherd’s pie? If you use beef, it’s called cottage pie… but, I’m sure you know that. Bon appetite!

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        And what’s it called if you use, say, pork, veal or venison? We make our own version here that involves sweet corn kernels and many other common herbs & vegetables. Shepherds tend to be focused but eclectic.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        C.B., I’ve never seen a pork, veal or venison version. But, I’m sure if they exist, the pork would be market pie (as in, this little piggy went to…), the deer would be hunter pie, and the veal would be porch pie (the meat‘s far too expensive for a whole cottage). I’ve never seen a sweet corn kernel in a shepherds pie – that would be considered heresy in England, but in Texas it’s probably obligatory.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Susan, I’ve made the pies with lamb, and with beef. Ground lamb is harder to obtain, so if I do make the traditional shepherd’s pie, I buy lamb chops and mince the meat myself with a sharp knife (meat grinders are a modern abomination). Kernels of maize are not part of the old recipe, but an American addition.

  13. BDW

    As Sidney Powell has brilliants put it, we have just experienced a Cyber Pearl Harbor.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Bruce, Sidney Powell is a no-nonsense woman of steel who most certainly doesn’t mince her words. Her “Cyber Pearl Harbor” analogy is spot on and she has my full admiration.

      Reply

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