.

R e w i n d…

If time could suck the bullet from torn flesh,
And pry its steely bite from splintered bone,
Stitch tattered life and limb to start afresh,
Unbloody muddy trench, uncast the stone;
If time could snatch back all each battle stole
With hands to heal the homeless, noiseless dead,
Breathe music into songless lung and soul,
Unfire the smoking gun, annul the lead;
If time could doom the poppy’s ruby bloom,
Fill Flanders Fields with waves of wheaten-gold,
Lift mourning clouds that weep in sunless gloom
With smiles of soldiers risen to grow old;

If time erased that piece of history
Then would we know the worth of being free?

.

.

For What It’s Worth

Did soldiers in their legions die for naught;
Just food for greedy tombs in distant lands?
Are bloody battles braver souls have fought
A blot that stains our history’s guilty hands?
Were horrors of the trench, the Somme, Dunkirk,
All nothing but a reckless, thankless blight?
Was Churchill just a cruel and clueless jerk;
A bulldog sick with savagery and spite?
Are Stars and Stripes the symbol of the shamed
Begging to be shredded, mocked, and burned?
Must individual liberty be blamed
For every evil since the earth has turned?

How can the gagged and locked-down know the cost
Of freedom if they do not know it’s lost?

.

.

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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25 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Susan, These are both very fine poems, and each raises a much needed question. in the first, “Rewind” I believe there is a typo. Didn’t you mean, line two, word two to be :pry” rather than”pries”, making the line read:

    And pry its steely bite from splintered bone” ?

    I’ve my flag out; it is a “76” flag, made in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Revolution.
    Thanks for posting these.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for your informative comment, Sally. I will admit to struggling over the word “pry” – I wanted to say “prise”, but thought the American version was “prize” and went for that. I believe you are right, and thank you for putting me straight.

      I originally wrote one sonnet, but, in these divided and divisive times, I wanted to afford two insights into the Memorial Day mindset. I’m hoping most people relate to my first sonnet.

      I love the fact you’re waving your “76” flag, made in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Revolution – I’m right there with you!

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        In regard to line 2 of “Rewind” it seems that the problem of “pries” has already been fixed. “Pry” is the correct verb form here, but, strangely, either “prize” or “prise” would be equally appropriate (since they are variants of one another), and they both mean the same thing as “pry.” But one more issue: although there are such things as steel-jacketed bullets, bullets are generally made of lead, and so their bite is more properly “leaden” than “steely.”

        Somehow, Susan, you always make me want to be an American. You often see things more clearly than those of us who have spent a lifetime immersed in a pot of water that is slowly heating up. Problem is, it’s the French that are supposed to be the frogs.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you, C.B. I always think of my grandparents and all those who fought alongside them when I write poetry like this. I am forever grateful for the legacy of freedom they left me. I hate to see it taken for granted or just plain taken – right from under our noses it would appear.

        As for ‘steely’ – I wanted to take the merciless / ruthless / pitiless / heartless route with the word, not the metallic definition. Although, I can now see how this may have been an error. I will think of a more suitable word to takes its place… one of my favorite pastimes.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        There is some very sophisticated alliteration going on in “Rewind” —

        STitch tattered Life and Limb to STart afresh (in a chiasmic ABBA pattern).

        With Hands to Heal the Homeless, noiseless dead (with the internal linkage of the /-less/ adjectives).

        Fill Flanders Fields with Waves of Wheaten gold.

        Notice also that there are four /-less/ adjectives, emphasizing the loss, the deprivation, and the emptiness of the poem’s historical context.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Susan, I don’t think you need to change “steely,” since you do in fact mention “lead” in line 8. The word steely is just being used in its figurative sense of “tough, hard, and forceful.”

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you for this, Joe S., I thoroughly appreciate your attention to the finest detail.

  2. Paul Freeman

    I found ‘Rewind’ particularly poignant.

    There’s an amazing piece about halfway through the book ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ where a glitch in time causes a war film to run backwards, so shrapnel becomes bombs which get sucked up into the bomb bays of planes, while dead soldiers ‘fall’ up and run backwards to the safety of their trenches, etc.

    ‘Rewind’ has that same, fantastical feel.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Paul, thank you for popping by, and thank you for your intriguing comment. I have heard of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, but never read it. I will now.

      Reply
  3. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, we have wept at the Omaha Beach cemetery in Normandy, although we are not American. We have wept at the cemetery at Verdun, although we are not French. We have wept at the Menin gate at Ypres, for the WW1 troops of long ago. Names, names, names, all so young. This is top end poetry from a top end poet, Thank you.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, I’m right there with you on tears shed for all those young men felled in the name of freedom. That’s why I fight so fiercely (poetically, of course) to highlight exactly what we have to lose. Thank you very much for your lovely comment.

      Reply
  4. TONIA KALOURIA

    Susan, these are wonderful: so descriptive and thought-provoking.
    And a personal comment, if I may. Your “For What It’s Worth” phrase
    reminds me of dear Paul Harvey, the wonderful radio newscaster/ storyteller.
    What Mr. Harvey (a WWII vet) was to broadcasting, you are to poetry.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Tonia, thank you for your beautiful comment – I am humbled by your comparison… and smiling, too.

      Reply
  5. Cheryl Corey

    In “Rewind”, I like your reference to the poppy. In the past I would often see veterans host a table in front of Walmart, and offer a paper poppy for a small donation. Nice that you had the foresight to compose these two poems for Memorial Day.

    Reply
  6. Yael

    Those are excellent questions Susan, and two excellent poems too. Thank you and happy Memorial Day to all of you.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, thank you very much! Here’s wishing you a happy Memorial Day, too.

      Reply
  7. Cynthia Erlandson

    I agree — two beautiful poems. Thank you for writing them, and for your patriotism.

    Reply
  8. BRIAN YAPKO

    Susan, these are both stunning, meaningful poems. I appreciate the political sentiments expressed in “For What It’s Worth” (though I have a deep antipathy for Voltaire who, in my view, is the one of the fathers of anti-Christian Europe. I suspect his quote refers to the church as the thing we poor souls need to be freed from.) That being said, thank you for the clarion call to a patriotism which is rapidly becoming mocked and dishonored in a most distressing way.

    As for your “Rewind” — I think it’s breathtakingly beautiful — a true classic with so many lines and vivid images that are worth remembering. To doom the ruby poppies’ bloom… To fill Flanders Field with wheaten gold… your images and sentiments are haunting and so evocative. This poem should be taught in a thousand English literature classes. Preferably in the week leading to Memorial Day, but also Veteran’s Day. Your poetry says so eloquently what people need to know. That sacrifice means so much more than what our culture of narcissism thinks it means. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, after your informative observations on the Voltaire quote, I have had it removed – thank you for putting me straight.

      I am thrilled at your response to both poems, but especially to ‘Rewind’. It was one of those poems that came straight from the heart and soul with the exact message I wanted to convey. In this day and age many have scant respect for exactly what freedom means and the price paid for keeping it. I hope and pray our future generations don’t have to learn the hardest way possible… it’s beginning to look like they will.

      Reply
  9. Margaret Coats

    Two very good poems, Susan! It is a special effort to do your best to appeal to the divided sentiments in what is a divided and divisive world. Interesting perspective on that, though. An attorney I know very slightly has written a book, “Liberty: The God That Failed.” He is a champion of liberty, having defended a church 3000 miles from where he lives, and obtained a legal injunction for them to use their building despite absurd “health mandates.” His point in the book is that since the French Revolution, we have forgotten God and substituted freedom. In many modern wars, both sides claim to fight for freedom, and no one considers it a gift of God. Men fight and die ignorant of the duties and rewards of a Christian soldier. This means the concepts of justice and just war become perverted, leading to greater and more frequent violence. “Individual liberty is blamed for every evil since the world has turned.” That is a recent and godless attitude, and of course it is the opposite of yours.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Margaret, thank you very much for your considered and thought-provoking comment. I always gain from reading your viewpoints and insights, and, in this case your attorney friend’s story. I can wholly relate to his observation that “we have forgotten God and substituted freedom”, and agree wholeheartedly. For all those who don’t tread the Christian path, I would like to adapt that phrase to: “we have forgotten truth and substituted freedom.” For me, God is the truth and the light. For our loved ones who don’t have faith but hate the way our world is heading… I honestly think they know the meaning of “truth” and see it being trampled on. Unless we collectively recognize the difference between truth and lies, right and wrong, good and evil… there is no hope. I believe good outweighs bad and I think we will get through this if we keep the truth out there. I hope I’m right.

      Reply
  10. David Watt

    Susan, both poems are timely and beautifully written. I particularly appreciate the alliterative effects as commented on by Joe S.
    You are correct in that although war is horrible, it makes us appreciate freedom all the more. Freedom of speech, freedom from wokenesss, freedom from excessive state control, and freedom of religion, are all under threat today. Whether it’s for Memorial Day or our ANZAC day, your poems ring true.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      David, your portrayal of that tricky word, ‘freedom’ is spot on. Those not on the side of truth and light have highjacked the word for their own wicked ends and I am sticking to the former definition… the definition that brought people together to stand up and call out liars. Let’s hope there are enough of us out there to know ‘freedom’ in its truest sense and fight for its continued existence. Thank you, as ever, for your support.

      Reply

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