inspired by the late John Whitworth’s “The Examiners” 

Through the burst of youth and giggles in the balm of budding spring,
__You are there.
Through the seal of something sacred where two souls conjoin to sing,
__You are there.
Through the cries of pain and sighs of mirth the awe of birth will bring
To hands that pave a future for their newborn everything.
Through grins and frowns and tears that brim and sting, sting, sting—
__You are there.  You are there.  You are there.

Through the sweat and fret of summer when the chicks have fledged and flown,
__ You are there.
Through the empty nest of loneliness that chills hope to the bone,
__You are there.
Through the sprawling halls of memories of a rosy, cozy home
Where passion wanes before it claims its flame’s now cold as stone
And leaves the grieving exes on their own, own, own—
__You are there.  You are there.  You are there.

Through the fruitful kiss of autumn mist where dreams and colors blaze,
__You are there.
Through the mending of a mangled heart forgiving wicked ways,
__You are there.
Through the change from green to mellow gold as wisdom kneels and prays
For quiet calm within the charming arms of peaceful days,
With hours to smell the flowers and simply gaze, gaze, gaze—
__You are there. You are there. You are there.

Through the shiver of the winter and the silvering of trees,
__You are there.
Through the ache and bite that gnaws at hips and nips at brittle knees,
__You are there.
Through the grace of death in moon-laced beds where clock hands stop and freeze
Life’s thrills and spills and angsts and ills, to set each heart at ease,
While spirits softly rise upon the breeze, breeze, breeze—
__You are there.  You are there.  You are there.

You are there. You are there, even when we’re unaware—
__You are there.
You are dutiful and beautiful and bless us with your care—
__You are there.
You’re the dawning of the morning and the twilight’s jasmine air.
You’re the rush of seas, the blush and tease of sunset’s glow and glare.
You’re the smile that soothes the savage mile; the answer to my prayer—
__You are there.  You are there.  You are there.

.

.

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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29 Responses

    • Frank De Canio

      Susan, you are not only there, but protean. OMG the language seems effortless and so lush. A great poem. I nominate you to write a eulogy after my death. If I’m allowed to, can I make 2 suggestions? One: I would eliminate the repetitions at the end of each verse. And 2: ‘before it claims a flame now cold’ seems to be the sense of the line earlier on. But who am I to judge? Thanks for a wonderful poem.

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you, Frank. This poem is a little out of my comfort zone and I’m heartened to hear your response. I was trying to emulate the wonderful Whitworth in my style, but I take on board your observations that point my effort in the right direction.

        When you mention the repetitions at the end of each verse, do you mean “You are there”, or the repetition of “sting, sting, sting”, or both? I’m open to trimming.

        I’ll also take a look at changing the unnecessary repetition you mention, and thank you kindly for your well received advice. All my works are works in progress and I find this sort of feedback invaluable.

        As for the eulogy after your death… assuming I’m still alive and kicking, it would be an absolute honour.

    • The Society

      Thank you, Susan! At the SCP, I think everyday is World Poetry Day. But on this particular day, we honor a great poet, Whitworth, and draw inspiration from him, as you have done so magnificently.

      -Evan Mantyk, Editor

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Dear Evan, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I believe we are the only site that makes every day World Poetry Day. I’m getting the word out.

        Long may rhyme, rhythm and rapture reign!

    • Gail

      Loved that essay–wish I’d skipped the comments though. I hate strife.

      Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Dear Susan –
      I just realized I had acknowledged your excellent (as usual) poem and your nod to me as the one who mentioned Whitworth to you. I knew you would love John Whitworth — not only for the expanse of his work, but for the breadth and depth of his vision. And I felt that the two of you had something in common, which you have also recognized
      Thanks so much for taking up his challenge. I have learned a lot from him, and could not believe you did not know his work. But now you do, and we both will be the richer for it.
      Thank you so much !
      I may have told you that poem to which you provided the link was probably my first post at SCP. I was stunned by the vitriol directed at me by so many until I realized where it was coming from. Mostly, it came from those who cannot stand even the slightest sniff of another point of view. My essay on Whitworth, to which you referred, was very short, and appeared at Expansive Poetry On Line – PIVOT.
      .Joseph S. Salemi also published a review of one of Whitworth’s books in his excellent journal Trinacria.
      So Whitworth has not been forgotten. Hope you will join me in keeping his name and wonderful poetry in the public eye.

      Reply
      • Norma Okun

        It is my opinion the poet being discussed is worthless and so are the things you claim about Whitman and Williams. I felt Susan did something that helped me try to see the guy who wrote such worthless lines could be interpreted in some new light. My comment was a praise to Susan. I never heard of this guy.

  1. Norma Okun

    Psalm 139 came to my memory. You are allowed to express the joy that you are never alone. That our Lord is there. When we know we are connected to our creator. We are that much happier and whole. “Oh Lord. Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my dowsitting and my uprising,” I think your poem is about this happy feeling.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      My poem is certainly about that happy feeling and I thank you for your astute and beautiful comment.

      Reply
      • Norma Okun

        I love your poem because you are making alive the very best that we have going for us all the time. I am glad you liked my comment.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Paul… amazing for all the right reasons, I hope. 😉

      Reply
  2. Gail

    Dear Susan,
    Saw this yesterday, and was much heartened by it. There is more worth in encouragement to be hopeful and think on good things, than in an unsympathetic adjurement to express acceptable sentiments. My strong preference is for the company of those who teach kindness, over any angry person. Disdain never created nor sustained anything worthwhile. Marching on . . .

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Gail, thank you very much for your comment. I agree with you. To express oneself in an angry fashion is often counterproductive… that’s why I escape into the world of poetry to get all my angst out… eloquently and humorously, I hope.

      Reply
  3. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, once again, a lovely and intensely readable piece. I had to first visit the bone-chilling John Whitworth version which has so many good lines. I noticed that the “They” in your poem is a lot more benevolent than the “They” in his.
    I can almost hear an old music-hall type tune attached to this, which would turn it into a stirring ballad. ( oh dear, I have just started humming “Nellie Dean”) Thank you for a great read again and pointing me to Mr.Whitworth, who I am pleased to see, managed to put the boot in to all those lording it over us.

    Reply
    • Gail

      Oh dear! First, ‘bloviate’ courtesy of Mr. Salemi, and now ‘Nellie Dean’. As I say whenever I tune in to public radio on roadtrips with the Daughters-of-My-Heart, “Let’s learn something, shall we?” (Though with public radio one must be careful!)

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Gail, “Nellie Dean” was composed by US boxer Henry W Armstrong and released on wax cylinder in 1905. It was made famous in England in 1907 by Gertie Gitana, who was born in my own birth town of Stoke on Trent in England. I hope this is interesting, maybe not!

      • Gail

        That sounds like it’s right up my alley. Must seek it out on YouTube. (Been listening to Elizabeth Cotten lately, Volumes 1-3.) So, yes! It was interesting.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, thank you very much for your comment – entertaining and imaginative, as ever. I like the idea of a music-hall tune morphing into a stirring ballad… great stuff! John Whitworth is a hidden treasure, and I’m surprised that, coming from the UK, we’ve not heard of him. Apparently, he won a lot of prize money from competitions. I think he won a fair few in The Telegraph, until they dispensed with the people’s vote and got a “professional panel” to judge instead – we the ignorant people have no taste at all.

      Reply
  4. Daniel Kemper

    The match of the art to the poem is even more exquisite than I’ve gotten used to at this site. BRAVO Evan!

    Susan, there are so many things to enjoy and admire, but coming so late as I have, must bend “ibid” to my uses here.

    Save one item.

    I love the use of repetition, of chorus, of letting the poem relax and get some air! Not relaxing as in someone drowsing, but relaxed like a dancer, athlete, music and on immersed in their element. So much of today’s verse is so compact — certainly not a flaw at all in itself — it’s just very satisfying to relax into this one. !

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Daniel, I am so glad you were able to relax into this new poem of mine… a rare treat as far as my latest creations have been going. I will admit to being out of my comfort zone with this one, but the musicality and personality of The Examiners called out for me to give it a go, SJB-style.

      You are spot on with your observation on Evan’s gift of matching art to poetry… the right picture makes all the difference, and I’m grateful to have the wonder of Mr. Mantyk’s discerning eye.

      Reply
  5. David Watt

    Susan, I particularly like the way you have preceded
    “the ache and bite that gnaws at hips and nips at brittle knees”
    with “the silvering of trees”. In this way, at least for me, the silvering of hair in old age (if any strands happen to remain) is an image implied, though never written on the page.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, David. Your observation has made me smile. I need to use more euphemisms… the stark reality of those creaking knees and hips is a tad too much for the discerning poetical palate. Next time I write about those maturing members of the community, I will embroider my poetic cloth with the silver threads of wonder. I’m heading in that direction all too quickly… I have my hairdresser to thank for not having to look reality full in the face. 🙂

      Reply
  6. BRIAN YAPKO

    Susan, this is superb. I don’t know John Whitworth at all, so I’m reading your work cold. But I love how you take us through a lifetime of faith in the course of four seasons and beyond — in a way that is so touching and so very musical. What I love best about this poem are the small, sacred things that make up a life — the seeing of these subtle things is the hallmark of a very deep faith. This truly should be set to music. It is something I could imagine a choir singing with beautiful overlapping harmonies of “you are there.” Thank you for sharing so inspiring a piece.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I really appreciate your take on this out-of-my-comfort-zone poem. I loved the musicality of Whitworth’s “The Examiners” and burned to use the form for a completely different theme. Your comment tells me I managed to pull it off, and that makes me very happy indeed. Thank you!

      Reply

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