A Woke Recipe for Disaster

a villanelle

Heap fresh and zesty chaos on despair.
Rub salt in history’s wounds till hatred sticks,
Then sugar discontent with bogus care.

Pour rage and scorn on free-speech freaks who dare
To shower ice on mayhem’s spicy mix.
Heap fresh and zesty chaos on despair.

Stir brimming pots till hot enough to snare
The mobs who’ll gladly lob your flares and bricks;
Then sugar discontent with bogus care.

Adorn your dish with wild and nutty fare
From PC cookbooks packed with wicked tricks.
Heap fresh and zesty chaos on despair.

Prepare to grill and feed the unaware
Your hard and bitter, half-baked politics,
Then sugar discontent with bogus care.

Make sure you serve with Satan’s silverware
And ladle lies that pledge a global fix.
Heap fresh and zesty chaos on despair,
Then sugar discontent with bogus care.




a pantoum

“Free speech is the cornerstone to every right we have.” —Mark Thomas

The powers that be declare our speech is free,
As long as words are PC and benign
And parrot propaganda endlessly—
The shining vision of the party line.

As long as words are PC and benign,
They’ll bless us with their just and ideal view—
The shining vision of the party line—
Utopia, a world God can’t outdo.

They’ll bless us with their just and ideal view,
Endowed with virtues lesser gospels lack—
Utopia, a world God can’t outdo,
Will kick each heretic straight back on track.

Endowed with virtues lesser gospels lack,
Their doctrine, honed and polished to the hilt,
Will kick each heretic straight back on track
By praising crooks and tainting saints with guilt.

Their doctrine’s honed and polished to the hilt.
Their tone is tuned to twist the truth with lies.
By praising crooks and tainting saints with guilt
They cancel out the curious and wise.

Their tone is tuned to twist the truth with lies
And parrot propaganda endlessly.
While canceling the curious and wise,
The powers that be declare our speech is free.



My Prayer

a rondeau

I cast my prayer beyond the pain
Of muzzled mouths in muted shame
And skin-tone framed for devilry—
All heinous deeds in history.
Please quell the blistering bile of blame—

The hate that slams then smears the name
Of those who won’t let darkness claim
That truth’s a fluid mystery.
__I cast my prayer.

I pitch my plea. I kneel. I aim.
I feel it rise in mercy’s flame
Beyond the sweeping galaxy
Where souls are whole and sorrow-free.
To absolution’s highest plain
__I cast my prayer.



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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26 Responses

  1. Tonia Kalouria

    You are simply amazing!
    So eloquent and apt. Indeed, speech is only “free” so long as we are lock-step. If we are not, it is quite costly.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Tonia, thank you for your comment, and you make a very good point… these days I feel I tread a very dangerous line. But, I know that to lose every last shred of freedom is even more dangerous, so I am going to stand up for our rights… always poetically, of course. I’m heartened to hear you’re standing alongside me.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    The villanelle is great! It’s a complex form to master, and even more difficult to pull off. And the conceit of a cookbook recipe is sustained the full length of the poem.

    The other poems are excellent as well. What depresses me is that we live in a totalitarian situation where it is necessary to write them, and where (as Tonia Kalouria mentions) we may very well have to suffer for them.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe S., your words make my efforts worthwhile. I have always admired a good conceit, and your recent essay pointed me in the right direction. Thank you. The current political skullduggery is calling out to me… I honestly hope the future will bring calmer times and I can embrace these beautiful forms with a much calmer subject matter.

      I fear I will suffer for my art… but, hell, I’ve suffered for everything else, so what the heck! I will always let my conscience be my guide… especially when it comes to honest, in-your-face poetry. You, Sir, have led the way.

  3. Jeff Kemper

    It could be said that the history of mankind is the history of tyranny. The oasis that is the USA is quickly morphing back into history’s millennia of drab despotism. These poems marvelously lament the cruel fate that threatens to overtake us, to which we’ve been heading for nearly a century and a half. Dear God, Grant us another respite!

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, I honestly think people are only just waking up to the fact that our freedoms are in grave jeopardy. I hope those in the know will voice their opinions and make a difference… even if it’s in the form of poetry. Thank you for your spot-on comment and your continued support.

  4. Margaret Coats

    Susan, this post is a triumph for free speech and fair forms. You sent me straight to my list of villanelles, and I think you make it into the top ten, along with Catherine Davis who answered Dylan Thomas in a far better villanelle than his. My only suggestion is to take “Woke” out of the title (for future publication or reference, even if you want to keep it here). “Woke” is unneeded, and I think the plainer title looks better on a top-ten list. Ending the group with “My Prayer” is a fervent way to make this little collection especially memorable. And the pantoum is a substantial filling to the sandwich. I hope to see this post at the top of the trending column soon, because the topic is of highest importance, and the poems are greatest fun.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Margaret, I disagree strongly. The word “Woke” is crucial in the poem’s title, because we NEED TO START FIGHTING BACK EXPLICITLY AND DIRECTLY. If we are afraid to specifically designate the evils we oppose, how the hell will we counter them effectively?

      • Margaret Coats

        Certainly didn’t make my comment out of fear.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Joe – these were my sentiments when I wrote the poem. I wanted to let our generation and future generations know exactly what we are and were up against. WOKE idiocy is a dangerous, soul destroying method of robbing us of our God-given rights. Anyone wielding the term “human rights” in the name of social justice, should think about exactly what’s at stake before taking the moral high ground.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        No, Margaret — I didn’t think you made the comment out of fear.
        I assumed you made it out of a valid aesthetic judgment about what sounds better. I just wanted to emphasize that in our current political situation, even a valid aesthetic judgment will be interpreted by the enemy as a sign of fear, and will only encourage them to attack us harder. We must never pull our punches.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Margaret, I know you know your poetic forms and I know you know your politics. I am thrilled and encouraged by your wonderful comment and I’m off to research Catherine Davis (I take it you’re talking Dylan Thomas’s ultimate villanelle) with a curious interest and the hope that she will inspire me to pursue this challenging form further.

      The placement of the rondeau at the end is strategic. All we can do is pray for the above poetic dilemmas in the hope our situation will inspire poems on the moon and stars instead of our political dilemma.

      As for the ‘Woke’ word, I used it to place the poem in a particular timeframe in history. I agree with you in that it won’t make it a classic… but, it may make our future generations look back at language and literature with the social and historical context in mind and learn from it. I am, of course, willing to change it… but, will it then achieve my initial ideal?

      As for your comment being made out of fear, I know this wasn’t addressed to me, but all the poets on this site who speak with honesty in times that speaking the truth is a radical act, are the bravest people I know… you are one of the courageous voices at the top of my list. Thank you, Margaret!


    Susan, what a tour de force of brilliant, scathing poetry! If one may describe “pleasure” in the context of such depressing subject matter, I found much to enjoy in your three poems.
    Of the three, I think your villanelle is my favorite — especially the two lines “Rub salt in history’s wounds till hatred sticks/Then sugar discontent with bogus care.) I’ve been trying to articulate this very unhealthy condition of our society’s present attitudes towards culture and history and I think you’ve nailed it. In a way that is almost obscene, many leftists seem to exploit and rub salt in the pain of people they could care less about (useful idiots, perhaps?) in order to 1) bring about anarchy because they despise our society; and 2) gain enough clout to perform their narcissistic pet-projects in social engineering. I agree with your choice to use the word “woke” in the title even though it does date the poem going into the future. I think the urgency of the message makes it worth it.

    Your second poem would be funnier if it weren’t so true. I am, I fear, one of those heretics you’ve written about. However, they’re going to have one hell of a fight getting me to “praise crooks” and “taint saints” with guilt. My moral compass is not for sale.

    As for your rondeau — just beautiful. I’m down on my knees right by your side praying for an end to this “blistering bile of blame.” (Great tongue-twisting alliteration.”

    Susan I always appreciate your bravery and your articulate, skillful yet humane and humorous way of shining a spotlight on uncomfortable truths. You have the gift. You are a true poet.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I am basking in your ‘a tour de force of brilliant, scathing poetry’ observation. I will gladly wear that badge with pride. I’m thrilled my message came through – the Globalist’s modus operandi appears to be:

      1. Create chaos
      2. Create a program at huge taxpayers’ expense to pretend to deal with the chaos.
      3. Put the money in the pockets of extra bureaucrats employed to pretend to deal with the chaos.
      4. Pretend to care.
      5. Repeat 1 – 4 regularly.
      6. Make sure all chaos created is continually stoked ensuring feathered nests for government elites and tax hikes for the workers until the country resembles Venezuela.

      Sadly, I think we’re on our way to number 6.

      I have had a blast with these forms in spite of the subject matter. I often find certain points need repeating and these forms were perfect for my message. I am heartened to hear your moral compass isn’t for sale, Brian, and I’m comforted to know you’re praying alongside me. Thank you very much. I thoroughly appreciate your support, your integrity, and your fine eye.


        I’m on the floor laughing from your “Globalist’s modus operandi” comment. So true! That should be a poem in and of itself.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Don’t tempt me, Brian… I must concentrate on pastoral poetry and odes to fair creatures… these darn political pieces keep getting in the way. lol

  6. Julian D. Woodruff

    All 3 are prizes, brilliant, dextrous, and to the point. I’m with you and others on “woke”: use (which is immediately to say overuse) of the term is our best hope for erasing both the word and the attitudes it embraces from our political-cultural landscape.
    I have to admit that truth as “fluid mystery” gives me pause: it seems to me that without any qualification here you invite a subjectivism (“my truth,” [pronoun of choice]’s truth”) that is to be avoided.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for your, as always, astute comment, Julian. I’m glad you liked the poems and I’m glad of extra advice on that horrible “woke” word. Let’s hope it goes down in history as an indicator to future generations to never employ a woke mindset.

      I can see exactly what you mean on the “truth’s a fluid mystery” front, and can now see it could be misunderstood. I wanted to capture the fact that those out to gaslight us are always telling us that “the” truth is malleable, the truth is fluid and not constant, adding mystery and confusion to a well-understood word that has been rooted in our Judeo Christian law for centuries. I will, however, take another look at this and see if I can make my poem clearer. With much gratitude.

      • C.B. Anderson

        For what it’s worth, Susan, I understood where “truth’s a fluid mystery” was aimed on the first reading.

        By the way, your villanelle was made how one should be made: without syntactic disruptions and with nicely meshing repetends. The rhythm and the flow of meaning were totally in tune with each other.

      • Julian D. Woodruff

        Oh yes, Susan. On another reading I think it’s not only fine, but characteristic of your writing. I retract. (I must have responded too early this am, before my 1st cup of coffee had done its thing.)

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        C.B. thank you very much for your reassurance on “truth’s a fluid mystery”. I always try to keep my poetry accessible and understandable… if readers find it veers off track, I like to guide it back. I’m glad it’s going in the right direction. I’m also glad you think the villanelle’s a success. As you well know, it’s difficult to make this form run smoothly for all the reasons you describe. I have to pay particular attention to detail when writing these. The pantoum is always the hardest one for me.

        Julian, thank you for keeping me on my toes! It never pays for a poet to become complacent… I am always aware that I am only as good as my last rondeau. 🙂

  7. Yael

    Beautiful poems Susan, and such interesting poetic forms too. I can feel my horizon expanding as I read these. I try to learn at least one new thing everyday and thanks to you today I learned one, plus two extra.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, thank you very much for this. I’m glad you like the forms… and the subject matter simply begged for these forms. I too have a curious mind. I used to read fiction, now I read fact… I think fact has messed with my poetry and set it on a path I never envisaged… but now it’s heading that way, I must own it. lol

  8. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, sorry for coming late to these three gems and educating me on the three different formats. I am from that generation that emits steam from our ears whenever Wokeness rears its head. Our latest is replacing “breastfeeding” with “chestfeeding.” I think Prince Harry had got himself tongue-tied this weekend by commenting on your first amendment. I think he has got it mixed ip with your second, but either way, I can see him forever banned from your nation and marooned on a posh yacht, mid-Atlantic as neither of us want him now. “The Prayer” is the sort of poem that will be around in a hundred years time. You are a wonderful poet. Thank you again.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, thank you so very much for your encouraging comments. There used to be such a thing as discretion, privacy, and respect for your family… now everyone bows to the government with no thought for their kin… unless, of course, you happen to have family and friends that tread the same path of thought as you – if not, you’re in trouble… and, boy, am I in trouble. lol


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