Today I spied you, red in beak and claw.
You perched atop a roadside pole to dine
On scaly prey with silver skin, pecked raw—
A mullet dish of thrashing flesh; a fine
Beachside feast; a smorgasbord of sweet
And briny meat with spiny, hairbreadth bones,
All talon-torn by hunger bared and wild.
I gazed upon your lofty luncheon feat.
It drew my awe and silent, stricken moans.
I stood stock-still both sickened and beguiled.

This curbside voyeur aimed and then zoomed in
On Mother Nature’s savagery and grace.
I crammed my lens with scene of wing and fin
In images that fired my heart to race.
Just like a sniper poised to take a shot,
I felt the thud of blood, the twitch of eye—
The fevered thrill a hunter entertains
When stealth and patience hit the golden spot.
I snapped your sea-snatched banquet in the sky,
Then slunk off with my prize… my spoils… my gains.

Now, as I sit before my laptop screen,
Scrolling through a midday spent with you,
I focus on the gifts my close-ups glean
And see you from a different point of view.
I see your majesty—divine design—
A form that sings a hymn of aerial flair.
I see your might; that flight before your dive;
Your plunge and splash, your lunge, your clasp and climb—
The struggle with your quarry in mid-air.
I see your steely will to soar and thrive.



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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37 Responses


    Susan, there are many pleasures to be found in this lovely ode which manages to romanticize some pretty unpleasant culinary images — I guess “savagery and grace” just about sums it up. I like very much how the poem is structured so it is not just about the osprey but about you, your reactions and how they change once you revisit your adventure in the photographs you took. (How I wish the photographs you captured were part of this post!)

    What I like even more is the impressive imagery and music of your language. I am always dazzled by your careful, sensitive selection of words — their sounds, their juiciness, their musicality — “spiny hairbreadth bones,” “sickened and beguiled” and many more. This is a “hymn of aerial flare” indeed! A beautiful poetic offering.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I’m always thrilled to receive your take on my poetry – you have a fine eye and always manage to see exactly what I’m trying to achieve. Would you believe the fish (a mullet) was still alive?! I have toned down the visuals. This was prior to a seafood lunch… needless to say, my appetite wasn’t quite as voracious… we chose the shrimp instead of the fish.

  2. Paul Freeman

    What I enjoy most about your longer nature poems, Susan, is how you can carry the topic forward, altering the perspective or chronology with each stanza, and still the final stanza stands as enthralling as the first (unlike many Hollywood trilogies).

    I would perhaps work on this line ‘On scaly prey with silver skin, pecked raw’. I originally thought the ‘prey’ was a lizard, which made ‘fin’ jar a bit later on. Perhaps ‘lake-spawned prey with scaly skin’ would remove the ambiguity. Just a suggestion

    Thanks for again reminding me that classical subjects can be given a modern poetic lease of life.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Paul, thank you for your astute observations. I take your point on the lizard/fish front… I did, however, want to show rather than tell… let the reader do a bit of work. The clues are in ‘Beachside feast’ and ‘briny meat’ and the osprey is a known fisher. I will, however, consider what you’ve said and I may change the words… as I maintain, my poems are always works in progress and I love editing.

      • Paul Freeman

        It’s a funny old thing. I can write a short story, edit it a couple of times, look at it again a few months later and make no changes.

        Not so, a poem. I’m forever tinkering and tweaking (I almost wrote ‘twerking’ there).

        As Oscar Wilde said after a hard day’s poetry editing: “I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.”

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Paul, I can wholly relate to Oscar Wilde, and have thoroughly enjoyed mulling over my to-mention-the-mullet-or-not dilemma. The mullet wins on the grounds that his memory would be sullied by comparisons to a lizard. I have also added another dimension to his grisly end. The fish was still flapping… he was literally eaten alive. My amendments reflect this and give a truer depiction of what I saw. That’s exactly why I love this comments section so much. Thank you, Mr. Freeman!

  3. Joe Tessitore

    A quick ask – at the end of line 8 did you mean “feat” or “fete”?

    Back for my second read.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, thanks for this. Either one goes, but I chose “feat” for the sheer task the bird had to endure.

  4. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, a magnificent tribute to this most wonderful creature. We saw so many on a raft trip down the Snake river in Wyoming. There seemed to be one perched on every tree. Some years ago we had Osprey on a local reservoir. I think the volume of “twitchers” in pursuit finally scared them away.
    I really enjoyed this. Thank you.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, what an adventurous life you’ve led. A raft trip down the Snake river in Wyoming sounds like a heart-poundingly dangerous experience that would put the up wind me! Much to my son’s chagrin, I am now a self-confessed “twitcher”. I must have entered my twilight years way too early! lol

  5. C.B. Anderson

    At some point, Susan, you might look back and wonder why you can’t write poems the way you used to do. This is one of the poems you might look back to. If you get any better at doing what you do, then the rest of us might just as well give up trying to write anything. You are the fishhook; you are the very nails hammered into the true Cross. Enjoy this flurry of creativity while you can, and don’t worry about the future. There’s always something left in the fuel tank, and, I swear, you could probably thrive on fumes. Did I happen to mention that I loved this poem?

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Joe, thank you! I truly believe my poetry wouldn’t be popular if it wasn’t for this site and all the honest, beautiful souls on it who encourage and accept my unorthodox creativity. You never fail to inspire me!

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      C.B., thank you! You are a titan of this site who knows his onions, and when I get a comment like this from you, I know I’m on the right track. I’ve learned an awful lot from the titans and I try to put each lesson to good use in every poem. With much appreciation for all you stand for and all you do.

      • C.B. Anderson

        As it happens, Susan, I love onions, and I have never met one I didn’t like.

  6. Margaret Coats

    A very hunterly poem, Susan, carefully doing something different in each of a classic ode’s three parts. The bird is at work in the first stanza, not hunting but reveling in after-the-hunt tasks and pleasures. He turns you into a hunter in the second stanza, with more hunting words to describe you than ripping actions to tell what he performs. But the start of the hunt is in the last stanza, which could be the only one, just as it’s the single view of the osprey in Paul Krapf’s painting. We might call this the “desired memorial” of the raptor, as the first stanza is necessary to survive and thrive, but isn’t as attractive (as you remark in line 10). In line 22, you set this memory to include both you and the bird. Overall, I’m most impressed with the poem’s original structure, but for one little thing, I also like the personification of hunger in line 7. The line might be called an abstract appositive explaining what’s described in lines 1-6.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Margaret, as another titan of this wonderful site, you have thrilled me with this comment. I always love to hear your take and when you mentioned Ben Jonson’s part three “Stand” in your comment on my “Ode to Hidden Splendor”, it impacted this poem and gave me a greater understanding and respect for odes.

      When it comes to whittling a poem down to its bare bones and building upon that skeleton with a precise interpretation that reveals the true meaning of the strategically placed words, you rock!! Thank you, Margaret.

      • Margaret Coats

        Thank you, Susan, for your appreciation of my attempts to give worthy comments. It looks like you are seriously interested in the ode as a lyric form. Please keep reading odes, which is the best education a poet can have about forms that interest him. Jonson, who introduced the ode to English literature, wrote about 15 of them. The great masters of the English ode are Dryden and Keats. Now you have me thinking about doing an essay on the topic! And while I agree with others that this poem is not typical of you, we all grow by moving where we haven’t been before.

      • Gail

        Please do write that essay. When I tried to read up on odes to help me clarify my thoughts on Susan’s poem, it was pretty tough to find a definitive description of the form.

        P.S. Susan: When I know my own mind more fully, I’ll speak it.–G

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Margaret, it would be a huge privilege to read an essay on odes by your good self, and I would love you to undertake this task… for purely selfish reasons, of course. My osprey ode is loosely based on Keats. I had a look at Dryden, but found his works to be less lyrical… a little more complex… beyond my vision… Margaret, as you can see, I am in serious need of your help! 😉

  7. Satyananda Sarangi

    Susan ma’am,


    I happened to visit this page after a long time due to the crisis back home.
    One word sums up your poem for me – “Incredible”.

    Keep inspiring.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Satyananda! It’s lovely to have you back on the comments page and thank you so very much for your appreciation and encouragement – it means a lot. I hope the situation at home is calming down and that you are still writing your beautiful brand of poetry… I hope to see you published on the pages of SCP soon!

  8. Gail

    Okay. Susan, I feel horrible. I could crash this party, but I won’t. I read it yesterday. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I set it aside till this morning when I was able to give it a closer reading.

    It’s very ambitious, but not wholly you. The germ of a great idea is absolutely there. I’ll go just a little further with this, and wait to see if you want to hear anymore. So, my final thought for now–and for always if you prefer–is you are more forthcoming when you know exactly how you feel about an idea or principle than you are when you aren’t sure exactly how you feel about a feeling. I don’t think that is by design.

    As a postscript, the first poem of yours that I read on this site was ‘To a Narcissist’. And, with that, I’m done.

    I’ve printed it out and am going to take a closer look. You know where to find me in cyberspace.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Gail, thank you for your thoughts. They are most welcome and quite interesting. Please don’t ‘feel horrible’. I love to hear all views on my poetry, not just the favorable ones.

      As you are probably aware by now, I like to experiment with form. But, within the constraints of form is the voice of the person I am, whether the subject matter is political, general, or personal. I am somewhat surprised to hear you say that this poem isn’t wholly me. From my own perspective, this poem is the song of my soul. It encompasses my love of nature (and all that nature brings with it) with my love of photography, poetry, and the wonders of creation.

      I have only just started writing odes. Maybe you feel the form doesn’t suit me. I don’t completely understand what you’re saying and would like you to elaborate. When it comes to discussing poetry, I am open to all conversations and don’t publish on these pages for praise. I share my poetry to learn from others, to hear critiques from poets who know more than I do, and to grow as a poet. Please speak your mind… I welcome it.

      • Gail

        Susan, I was not aware that you like to experiment with form, by which I assume you mean that you try different forms, not that you break the ‘rules’ when you write. I expect your poetry to be what it has been–specific, vivid, and powerful. I wish I understood more about odes; I can’t tell if it suits you or not.

        Julian sited all the hallmarks of your voice that are present in this ode. (Thank you, sir!)

        When I was done reading, I was confused. I could not discern your primary sentiment. Was I supposed to be watching you watch an osprey? That’s not what the title would indicate.

        If your experience of watching what was happening, then capturing what was happening, and, finally, reexamining what happened mattered as much as the event itself, then much of the vocabulary of the naturalist, the falconer, the sniper, the bow hunter, and the voyeur could have been employed to pinion– and so, gut!–your readers. Instead, your word choice was a bit bland.

        RE: ‘the golden spot’ e.g. snipers use the moment at the end of and exhaled breath. It has a name which escapes me.

        When I need more material for something I’m making. I search broadly, read, look, then walk away and let it rest. And wait to see what comes up. Cream rises. Hope this helps.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Gail, thank you for taking the time and trouble to go over my poem. Odes are not wholly new to me; I’ve written three others on this site. They do, however, intrigue and excite me.

        An ode is always addressed to the subject, so throughout my ode I’m addressing the osprey. I saw him eating his freshly caught live mullet on a pole near the beach and wanted to capture that moment in words and then reflect upon the moment having seen it in close-up form on the computer screen. Margaret, in her astute analysis of my poem, describes my intentions perfectly.

        It seems, like with any poem, it appeals to some tastes and not to others. I have deliberated over the words and honed them to as near perfect as I can manage. But, as I always say, all my poems are works in progress, and I may return to it and make a few tweaks.

  9. Sally Cook

    Dear Susan –
    You know that I think the revised version much improved. Somewhere along the progression of this fine poem I must have become confused, but didn’t the mullet start out as a snake? Doesn’t matter, because both are prey to the osprey and the entire basis for the poem is survival, one’s distaste for the actualities of the hunt, and the cruelty in life, which you have expressed in crisp, slashing terms. The poem retains its sea-going airs throughout and proves your versatility beyond measure. I’m curious to know if your first poetry instructor, of whom you have written, has seen any of your later work.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sally, I really appreciate your artistic eye and your considered opinion where all my poetry is concerned. I also love the way you can tap into the heart of my works and reveal the core of my message… which is, as you say so beautifully – “the actualities of the hunt, and the cruelty in life”. The banquet was tough to witness, but I know it was essential to survival. I also thank you for your appreciation of my versatility. I have a burning curiosity for different takes on life and poetry is a wonderful medium to express my new finds. I only hope I learn to paint poems as beautifully as you paint your pictures.

      As for my first poetry instructor… if you are talking of the English master who turned my head… I have no idea. I can only hope so.

      • Sally Cook

        When you put a book together, you must send him a copy!

  10. Julian D. Woodruff

    Dear Susan,
    I think the “red in beak and claw” at the opening may throw us off–we’re not used to eating fish of that sort. Nonetheless, any confusion is soon cleared up.
    I think Gail’s right: this ode is well away from the poems of yours that normally appear here. Still, the assonance, alliteration, and interior rhymes are yours unmistakably. And anyway, you’re entitled to step away from your “normal” manner (if that term is permissible). I don’t mean to be unfair to Gail–I doubt that I’m addressing her complaint, at least not directly or fully, but I like this taste of your range.
    To the osprey a delicious dinner,
    To the reader a poetic winner.
    It was luncheon, did you say?
    Well, fine writing, anyway!

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Julian, thank you very much for your encouraging comment. As I said to Sally above, I like to try new forms and express myself in different ways… I feel just like a kid in a sweet shop with poetic forms. I have no idea which one to sample next. It’s great to get insightful feedback – it helps me on my poetic journey… and I adore your inspirational little gem of a poem – it’s given me a big Friday afternoon smile.

  11. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, I was once accused, by the amazing Mr. Tweedie, of lapsing into purple prose. Having re-read this, I have lapsed into the Ultra Violet. I have done a large-print version of this and pinned it to my bird-feeder to deter the Wood pigeons that have taken up residence. I see this in an anthology of your work, perhaps one of three, all about £10.99 on Amazon, delivered by drone into every schoolyard in England. And then Radio 4 beckons, photo shoots with Boris (Riding high at the moment), and then, business class to Heathrow, with a cry of, “Move over McGough, Cooper Clarke, Ayres…English poet coming through! My friends are itching to join your fan club as soon as you are published, which must be soon. Please, please get on with it.
    Best wishes to you and Mike and keep twitching.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, you never fail to inspire and push me in the direction of publishing… I can promise you, I am working on it… it’s just that poems and twitching keep popping up in between the boring task of getting everything together. But, after your message, I can see that I owe it to all my fans in the UK to make their lives a lot happier. I’m on it!

  12. David Watt

    Susan, I love nature poetry, especially when it as chock-full of detail and crisp images as this one. We don’t get too many ospreys in this neck of the woods. Your poem will compensate for the shortfall.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      David, you have made my Sunday morning! As I’ve probably told you before, I’m fascinated by the birdlife here on the coastal plains… and now I have the God-view (my miracle of a zoom lens) the pictures I take inspire a poem here and there. I will admit to being particularly pleased with this one. Even if it isn’t top-notch, the words serve as a wonderful memory of my jaw-dropping experience. Thank you for popping by.

  13. Daniel Kemper

    If I might comment obliquely by quoting the Wright Brothers: No bird soars in a calm.

    (I’m not sure which one said it.)


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