.

Brimstone

I sniff a whiff of brimstone in the tone
Of smooth effusions oozing from his tongue.
A lick of sulfur clings like stale cologne
To slickest syntax eloquently strung
Like lustrous pearls to wrap around the throat
That swallows every sickening cliché.
The polished bleating from a cheating goat
Is honed to lead the sweetest sheep astray.
I hear his cloven hoof tap to the beat
Of hapless hearts all fed the plumpest pledge—
That putrid fruit the duped are lured to eat
From lips that push the sanest to the edge.

The nightingale croons by a moonlit thorn—
Another politician has been born.

.

.

They Let Him In

a rondeau redoublé

“Sometimes the Devil is a gentleman.” —Percy Bysshe Shelley

They let him in and offered him a seat.
He reveled in their merriment and cheer.
He spun them to his mesmerizing beat.
He whispered in their tuned, attentive ear.

His words were warped and wild and insincere,
Disguised as mild and summer-honey sweet;
The siren song’s allure they longed to hear.
They let him in and offered him a seat.

With suavely spoken, saccharine conceit
He swathed deceit in flattery’s veneer—
With bitter truth now rendered obsolete,
He reveled in their merriment and cheer.

He played the lofty, omnipresent seer.
His charity would make their days complete.
With checks and sex and bonhomie and beer,
He spun them to his mesmerizing beat.

They feasted with their guest until replete;
Ensorcelled in his stupefying sphere.
He scorched them with a torch of rising heat.
He whispered in their tuned, attentive ear.

Although they felt the bite and blaze of fear
Ignite their skin and sing of their defeat;
Although they saw the Devil’s sneering leer
Glint with sly intent to lie and cheat—
They let him in.

.

.

Hark! 

I’m calling on my inner Joan of Arc,
My chain-mailed maid of girded loins and grit,
To bless my bark with bite and whet my wit
When feuding with a fork-tongued hypocrite—
To flummox fox and shake the snake and shark,
I’m calling on my inner Joan of Arc.

In days of pathways destined for the dark;
Those doleful depths where snowflakes bellyache,
Where all the woke are never quite awake,
And good is never good for goodness sake—
To oust each cunning, conning oligarch
I’m calling on my inner Joan of Arc.

I’m seeking saintly strength to make my mark.
I aim to bathe this age of rage in light,
To smite the wrong and champion the right,
To swap the urge for flight for nerve to fight—
For fortitude that couldn’t be more stark
I’m calling on my inner Joan of Arc.

To all who traipse the track of snipe and snark,
Where finds are mocked and facts are locked away,
Where cancel-culture murders words that stray
From all that scheming demons have to say—
Forsooth, the truth will sing with lyre and lark
As fleecers meet their fate from Joan of Arc.

.

.

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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35 Responses

  1. Russel Winick

    It’s always a good morning to wake up to Susan’s gifts. In sports parlance, “3 for 3!” Several lines into “Brimstone,” I developed a hope as to where it was going, and she did not disappoint! An instant classic!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Russel. I’m glad I didn’t disappoint on the development front… I thought the mention of brimstone may well have given the game away. I appreciate your continued support.

      Reply
  2. Joe Tessitore

    I don’t think it can get any better than this.
    Your vision and your poetry are truly off the chart!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, I’m thrilled you enjoyed these poems. Your wonderful comment has me beaming and grabbing my pen to write another! Thank you for your inspiration and for your encouragement.

      Reply
  3. BRIAN YAPKO

    Susan, I’m overwhelmed trying to find the right superlatives for these three triumphs. Your poetic voice in all three is loud and clear as you tackle a subject that couldn’t be of greater theological importance and its application to our increasingly frightening society. As you once said to me, you are a poet after my own heart — especially when it comes to critiquing wokeitude in all of its destructive permutations. As Joe says, your poetry is truly off the chart.

    A few more specific thoughts on the poems. Like Russel, I think “Brimstone” is an instant classic. Your use of poetic device makes the oozing sweetness of your demonic politician (is there any other kind?) utterly palpable. My feeling about character-driven poetry is that tools like alliteration and internal rhyme are most perfectly suited to address a subject, or speaker, of either great sophistication or great manipulation. Your poem aligns perfectly with this ideal and the contrasts — I could write an essay on your oxymoronic contrasts! The sulfur and the cologne, the polished bleating, the nightingale and the thorn… What a marvelous poem this is!

    Now that I now how extraordinarily difficult writing a rondeau is (let alone a redouble) I can only bow before the brilliance of “They Let Him In.” Again, the idea of sophisticated language, literary devices, etc. works to extraordinary effect concerning the diabolical subject matter. But in the end, after a triumph of observation. you leave me shaking my head wondering “Lord, what fools we mortals be.” You definitely made your point!

    Lastly, there’s “Hark!” which — on first reading — had me a bit torn and — on second reading — leaves me again delighted with your poetic voice. My initial concern was that this was in some way a serious invocation of Joan of Arc — which, if that were the case, would probably be served by simpler “saintlier” language and fewer poetic bells and whistles. But on second reading, I realized that I had misread the tone and that this is a concurrently serious and tongue in cheek poem — “chain-mailed maid of girded loins and grit” — which is almost Gilbertian in its witty observation of harsh truths. You’ve succeeded in achieving an elusive tone peppered with a series of delicious images: “the woke who are never quite awake”, “cancel culture murders”, “scheming demons.” Truly masterful and memorable, all three! Forsooth!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I always look forward to reading your thoughtful and insightful comments. You have a remarkable understanding of exactly what I’m trying to do with words and forms, and your observations tell me I’ve been successful. That pleases me no end. I thoroughly enjoyed creating the syrupy ooze of “Brimstone” to depict the mindset of today’s stereotypical politician. I’ve come to the conclusion that the truth is almost always unpalatable. It takes those with backbone to bear the weight of it.

      I have fallen in love with the rondeau redoublé. I find it to be the perfect form to get a point across – the repetition being pivotal to this end. You did such a perfect job with yours, I hope to see another. Here it is for anyone who hasn’t read it: https://classicalpoets.org/2021/06/21/when-the-statues-were-felled-a-rondeau-redouble-by-brian-yapko/

      “Hark!” is pure me. I had the most fun with this one. Every time I feel beaten down, I’m going to draw on my inner Joan of Arc to make me strong and spur me on. I’m sure there’s a kick-ass saint in everyone… it’s about time the whole human race began delving into its murky depths.

      Reply
  4. Peter Hartley

    Susan, Utterly mind-bogglingly staggeringly brilliant! As Joe says, it couldn’t get better than this and it can’t, it surely can’t?
    I ran out of superlatives long ago and now I am just left speechless and befuddled. “The track of snipe and snark”, coupling “lyre and lark”, Lewis Carroll could never in a million years have exhausted their potential as you have done. If Joan of Arc could have heard this panegyric she would have realised that it was all worthwhile. To be immortalised like this seven hundred years after being chained to the stake and roasted alive! Wouldn’t anyone be jealous? “Bless my bark with bite, and whet my wit”. Genius, sheer blinking genius. Where does it all come from? What were you wasting your life doing before you became a poet? Why are you not some kind of intergalactic poet laureate? This poetry soars. As Robert Bridges said on the publication of Hopkins’s poetry in 1918, “ Among our chaffinch flocks display your plumage of far wonder and heavenward flight.” You are the amanuensis of the Omnipotent, the touchstone of excellence for generations yet unborn.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Peter, a comment from you is akin to discovering a treasure trove of gleaming jewels to adorn myself in and strut my sparkling stuff with a grin. I hope there’s a diamond tiara big enough for my head! Ahh, there it is! I’ve just seen it! “The amanuensis of the Omnipotent” – It fits and I’m wearing it with pride. Thank you, Peter. This linguistic gift from you is priceless!

      Reply
  5. Mike Bryant

    If you guys think this is brilliant… just wait.
    Yeah, I think it’s brilliant too…

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Mike, I am always aware that a diva of a poetess strutting in her diamond tiara is only as good as her last poem… I hope I don’t have to give Peter’s treasure trove of linguistic gems back.

      Thank you for putting up with my curious, creative ways, biggest fan!

      Reply
  6. Sharmon Gazaway

    Brilliant–as always–a poetry trapeze artist. Brimstone is a masterpiece.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Sharmon. I’m over the moon with your comment. “Poetry trapeze artist” is poetry in itself, and I love it.

      Reply
  7. Sally Cook

    Susan, you are always meticulous, instinctive, perceptive, introspective.
    Don’t think I have ever read anything of yours that didn’t stand up to the best of the best.
    You are an inspiration.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dearest Sally, when I can inspire one of my most admired poets, my poetry must be good and I thank you wholeheartedly for letting me know.

      Reply
  8. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, I couldn’t help but picture Boris in the first two and Thatcher in the third. I agree with, and cannot add to, every eloquent word from Peter and hope that your future compilation will soon be over here and sitting next to his. Best wishes.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      Thanks for reminding us of a woman with political sense and savvy who was not a demonic politician. She does suit Susan’s “Hark!”

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, thank you for this. Like Margaret, I think you make a very good observation on the politicians. Bloviating Boris and Bolshie Blair are bleating in unison in “Brimstone” with a chorus of many others joining in. I think Margaret Thatcher was the last honest politician the UK had. Whether you liked her policies or not, at least you knew exactly what she had in mind, and she was, indeed, an Iron Lady not for turning.

      Reply
  9. Cynthia Erlandson

    Susan, I agree with the comments above; these are all magnificent! And I would add that I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more amazing visual description of words themselves — as in the spoken words of the politician and the devil — than your imagery here. It is such that the words (both the words of the poem, and the words the characters are speaking although we readers don’t hear them) “become flesh”!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Cynthia, I am both ecstatic with joy and heartened to hear this. I tried really hard to bring the perceived psyche of a slippery politician and the wily wickedness of Satan to the fore. I hope I’ve sent a shiver down the spine of those who were thinking of letting the devil in. 😉

      Thank you very much for your continued inspiration and your support. It means a lot!

      Reply
  10. Margaret Coats

    Susan, let me simply echo what others have said about “Brimstone.” And what a poem to continue your leadership of the rondeau redouble revival! The devil is indeed a subject of importance that needs to be brought to the fore, as Brian said above, and I will support your approach by quoting Chaucer from The Parson’s Tale. “A man should realize that the weakness of the devil will do nothing unless men allow him.” In “Hark!” I imagine the speaker completing her desired metamorphosis into Joan, and ending the poem by saying, “As fleecers meet their fate from Joan of Arc.” As for the fear that she herself might then meet the fate of Joan of Arc, I’ll quote the cancelled Father Francis on courage as a gift of the Spirit: “Courage is not the absence of fear. Jesus had more fear in the Garden of Gethsemane than anyone in the history of the world. Courage is going forward to accomplish a great good in the midst of a great evil.” This is more serious than I had intended this comment to be, but it’s to your credit that your poems bring about this kind of reflection.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Margaret, your comment is rich in wisdom and advice and it’s comments such as yours, and all those who have taken the time and effort to interpret and reflect upon my words, that inspire me to continue writing with joy and conviction.

      The quote from the courageous Father Francis is wonderful and will remain with me. I am often fearful of publishing my forthright opinion on current affairs, and have often silently reprimanded myself over my cowardice – no longer. I will embrace my fear and carry on with a nod of gratitude to you and Father Francis. Thank you!

      As for your interpretation of “Hark!” and thoughts on the final line – I love it! I have asked Mike to change Hark’s grand finale using your words. I will admit to struggling with this closing line… I should have ran it by you first. I appreciate your fine eye. Thanks again, Margaret. You’re a huge asset to this wonderful site.

      Reply
      • Julian D. Woodruff

        Susan,
        How many my age and younger encountered The Screwtape Letters as undergraduates and simply yawned. Not you, clearly.
        To expand a thought of one of your admirers above:
        Trapeze artist, magician, eloquence
        Personified, and bracing influence,
        Yet sobering, too–that’s Susan Jarvis Bryant:
        Truly awake, both brilliant and defiant.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Julian, thank you so very much for your amazing observation and for your wonderful and highly amusing poem. Your observation has amazed and impressed me because my rondeau redoublé “They Let Him In” was inspired by The Screwtape Letters. I read it for the very first time in June and I’m now studying it at weekly book club meetings. To think that the essence of a boring book you read in your youth can be found in the lines of a poem here on SCP some years later… I’m glad I’ve resurrected Screwtape and given him a little more oomph! A lot can be learned from his devilish scribblings to his little devil of a nephew… my poem is the product of his lessons. Mwa ha ha.

  11. Julian D. Woodruff

    Susan,
    The STL did not have the impact on me that it should have had in my confused years long ago, but it did make a bit of a dent that might account in part for my eventual conversion. (My wife, who is responsible in much greater part, was so disturbed by the 1st few pages of Lewis’s masterpiece that she was unable to continue with it!)

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Julian, I can fully appreciate your wife’s sentiments. It’s a difficult book to read… but, if one perseveres, it gives a perspicacious view of the devil’s dodgy dealings and a beautiful and humbling view of God. STL is also timeless. The devil slithers among us in the same guise today as he did during WWII, when Lewis wrote the book. I find it interesting to revisit books I studied at school and view them from my mature perspective. I gain so much. By the way, I’m only at the book club to translate all those quirky English phrases and customs into Texan. 😉

      Reply
  12. Yael

    Susan you are a superb word guide. You take the most dangerous class-V (whitewater rafting analogy) vocabulary and guide the reader through the rapids in such a skillful and entertaining way so as to make the trip exciting, enjoyable, and seemingly easy and effortless. That takes massive amounts of skill, experience and finesse on the part of the guide! I’d follow you anywhere you care to lead the way through some vocabulary because I know I’d be in safe hands with you. You are my contemporary word guide of choice.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, I simply adore your whitewater rafting analogy, and if there’s anyone I know who knows how tough it is to negotiate those roaring rapids, it’s you. You have captured perfectly the tricky moments this poet has when taking on a devilish linguistic task… and the triumph I feel when I have steered those who read my stuff through dangerous literary territory only to have them smiling in acknowledgement at the end. Yael, you have made my week!

      Reply
  13. David Watt

    Most eloquently and entertainingly put! Indeed, beware the devil, politicians of a particular persuasion, and woke snowflakes. Unfortunately, we have a surfeit of individuals combining the traits of all three.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      David, there are devils of all shapes and sizes out there and I’m glad you know it. I’m also glad you enjoyed my poem. Thank you for your lovely words and continued support.

      Reply
  14. Jeff Kemper

    All I can say is”ditto” all that has been said heretofore. I’ll add only this: Your poetry screams, “Read me again!”

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yay, Jeff – you’ve made my day! Please feel free to read me anytime you like… the more, the merrier I am!

      Reply
  15. C.B. Anderson

    All three were delightful, Susan, for reasons amply noted in the other comments. I wonder, though, whether, if not for the support of your good readers here, you might feel that it was you against the world. The world you depict is rather disturbing, and your depictions are frighteningly accurate.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      C.B., thank you very much for dropping by. I’m glad you like the poems. As ever, your comments have me thinking… and, yes, I often feel like it is me against the world – a world in which curiosity is crushed, a free mind is a crime, and belief in the human race as a whole is shameful. Yet, if I wasn’t true to myself, and if I didn’t write from my heart, then what would be my purpose? Again, I am thankful for this site and the like-minded people on it. We are a rare voice in the wicked wilderness… but, we’re a voice, and that’s a good thing. I’m going to bask in the beauty of nature today – no matter how bad this world gets, the glorious and abundant gifts upon it never go unnoticed by me. Wishing you a wonderful Sunday, C.B..

      Reply

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