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A Can of Worms

I saw it in the writing on the wall.
I couldn’t help but read between the lines.
I knew that pride would come before a fall;
A bold and blatant sign of troubled times.
Caught within the crosshairs and red-handed,
(I’d Champagne tastes and lean, beer-budget means)
I champed upon the bit as I was branded
A mad dog torn apart at fraying seams.

The milk was spilt, the shit had hit the fan.
I bit the dust then came back from the dead.
To leap straight in the saddle was the plan.
I didn’t cry, I forged ahead instead.
I travelled as the crow is apt to fly;
As pleased as punch, as happy as a lark.
Crazy like a fox and just as sly,
I brought home hocks of bacon in the dark.

I burned my bridges in the midnight oil.
I blew my trumpet till my face turned blue.
I busted chops and guts and reaped the spoils;
Turned over gleaming leaves all spring-green new.
I learned that all is fair in love and wars,
The finest medicine—guffaws of laughter,
A golden goose and nest egg in my drawers
Would make me oh so happy ever after.

These days you’ll find me resting on my laurels,
Grinning like a cat who’s lapped at cream.
No axe to grind; I’m done with heyday quarrels—
Until the cows come home I’ll live the dream.
To those who say my life is naught but cliché,
I say I’ve stepped outside the box to think.
One has to break some eggs to make a soufflé—
If an ass drags me to water, I won’t drink.

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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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38 Responses

  1. Mike Bryant

    Susan, I think you might want to remove a cliche or two that I’ve spotted. It’s a beautiful poem about overcoming adversity. I also noted that you’ve written this poem in proper English! If I have to step in as a translator, I’ll be glad to do it. Love this poem.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Paul. Sometimes I have to step away from the insanity of politics and immerse myself in a touch of poetic merriment.

      Reply
  2. jd

    I enjoyed it too, Susan. Very clever and a lot of work,
    I should think, to fit in so many so well.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it, Johanna. I had a blast writing it, I was grinning all the way to the closing line… I’m glad some of my joy has rubbed off.

      Reply
  3. Julian D. Woodrruff

    It’s almost perfect, Susan. The defect:
    While it has life, it lacks chilling effect.

    Reply
  4. Paul Freeman

    When I lived and worked in Zimbabwe, some of the English cliches and adages had changed slightly over the decades (English is primarily a second language there), so we had ‘When the cat’s away, the mice dance’ and my old favourite, ‘Every Tom, Harry and Dick’ amongst others.

    However, like variations in English spelling, you get used to all the little anomalies.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Mr. Freeman,
      I wonder if Cole Porter’s song “I’m a maid who would marry” (Kiss Me, Kate), with its “Any Tom, Dick, or Harry; Any Tom, Harry, or Dick” reversal, reached Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) before you.

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      How interesting. I will admit to liking the idea of the mice dancing when the cat is away… it seems the rodents of Zimbabwe are blessed with rhythm and sophistication.

      Reply
      • Paul Freeman

        I must admit, ‘dance’ always sounded better to my ear than ‘play’.

        As for ‘Tom, Harry and Dick’, I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Kiss Me Kate’ had a long run at the bioscope as the cinema was called in Rhodesia as it was then, and that alternative stuck.

  5. Daniel Kemper

    This is gleeful and quite clever. The joy that dances on the surface is complemented by a clever depth, I think. My favorite part is how just after the mention of cliché, you invent a new expression out of an old cliché.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Daniel, I’m thrilled you tapped into the glee of my Can of Worms. I had immense fun writing it, and thoroughly enjoyed adding a little twist of zest to a couple of tired old clichés at the end. Thank you very much, indeed.

      Reply
  6. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, a mighty cliche-fest, to put a fine point on it,
    With a bee buzzing in the bonnet. I’ll read it to my friends tomorrow, run it up the flagpole and see which way the wind blows. Great fun and frolics, which I’m sure rhymes with something but I can’t think what.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, your comment is not only clever, it’s hilarious. I’m over the moon you didn’t think my poetic frolics were a pile of bollox. Whoever said a poet should avoid cliché was very wrong indeed.

      Reply
  7. Brian Yapko

    Susan, this is a confectionery treat of hackneyed clichés turned into wonderfully ironic poem! I’d quote a line or two but… you already took care of that! This must have been a phenomenal amount of work but it appears effortless. That’s the best kind of poetry! Thanks for the smile.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I’m thrilled you enjoyed this unorthodox offering. I had more fun than is seemly when I wrote it. I only hope I’m not about to suffer for my art… I am fully aware that poets and their clichés are soon parted… a little bard told me that one. Ouch! I simply couldn’t resist. Thank you, and, as ever, I always appreciate your fine eye.

      Reply
  8. Gail

    Way fun! I got a little hung up imagining how uncomfortable it must be to keep a nest egg in your drawers.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Gail, I sniggered as I wrote that one… I’ve heard that nest eggs often cause poor souls to get their knickers in a twist. I’ve also heard that golden goose is as sharp as a tack… ouch!

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Indeed, Cynthia… I just hope I haven’t wound up with egg on my face! 🙂

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      This is the cat’s meow of a compliment, Joe – I’m grinning like a Cheshire one. Thank you!

      Reply
  9. Sally Cook

    Susan, you think outside the box!
    But you are crazy as a fox.
    Sorry I can’t do better than that tonight, but having spent the day reading my own stuff, I am all rhymed out and up the spout!
    So happy to see your glorious sense of
    humor at work! Because of this, I don’t have to ask, but know you are overcoming all the bad weather in your area.
    Splendiforous !

    Reply
  10. Sally Cook

    Well, the evil thing that lives on my desktop just destroyed my comment, so I will try again. I love that your rollicking sense of humor is again in fine fettle, and so nice to see it rolling along.
    I don’t have to ask; reading this I know you have overcome your bad weather in spirit if not in the physical sense.
    But I would like to ask how much input do you require from George, the resident Bryant feline? I ask because this wonderful poem has George written all over it!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sally, your wonderful comments are almost as quirky as my poem… and, yes, you are right on the George Lionel front. George got my tongue, so I let him out of the bag, curiosity got the better of him, he pulled on his cat’s pajamas and composed the final two stanzas… and luckily, his five remaining lives saved him from a dreadful fate. I knew immediately you would tap into the finer points of our resident Bryant feline. We are slowly but surely recovering from the hell and high water. Thank you very much for dropping by.

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jan, that is hilarious – I’m tempted to add a closing couplet in your honour! Thank you for the medicinal guffaw.

      Reply
  11. Russel Winick

    Susan – when I started reading a bit about how to write poetry, I kept seeing admonitions against using cliches. Those exhorters never imagined the likes of you! This poem is delightful!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Russel, your comment has me laughing out loud. I know there are probably many purists cringing at my blatant cheek. I’m thrilled that you’re not one of them. Thank you!

      Reply
  12. David Watt

    It was only a matter of time before you put cliche to rhyme.
    Brighter than bulbs by Edison. Laughter is the best medicine.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      ‘Brighter than bulbs by Edison’ – what greater praise than that! I am thrilled there were no comparisons to today’s green-new-deal, dimmer-than-Biden bulbs.

      Reply
  13. C.B. Anderson

    Well, Susan, your rapid-fire lines of exquisite images and pungent statements make this a masterpiece of enforced engagement. Only a brain-dead person could be stopped from reading this to the very end. And a living brain will dwell upon it days and weeks after. You are a poet after my own heart.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      C.B., I am thrilled with your amazing and highly entertaining comment… dare I indulge myself in the thought that my odd-bod of a poem will engage every person whose brain is functioning? The answer is YES! I’m going to bask in the warmth of that glorious thought all day. Thank you!

      Reply

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