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What can it mean—this swan of black?
What cryptic codes must eggheads crack?
What will this ebon-feathered thing
Of beauty spring? What will it bring
To pass in days with ways off track?

Scour the Chinese zodiac.
Grill a bibliomaniac.
A long-necked portent haunts Beijing;
__What can it mean?

This woeful world wails on the rack
As dullards dance for hack and quack,
And puppeteers pull taut each string
Attached to marionettes that sing
The tune that drew this swan of black—
__What can it mean?

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Susan Jarvis Bryant is from 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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28 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    You are always subtle, Susan, but usually you are not so mysterious. By now, you probably know what a black swan means in the discipline of epistemology, and it pleases me to find you engaged in the realm of deep thought. Press on, regardless, because you have an uncommon knack for finding the right buttons to press.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      C.B., thank you very much. I afforded this rondeau a great deal of thought, and I’m thrilled you spotted it. This intriguing news simply had to be addressed poetically and I’m glad I found the right buttons to press.

      Reply
  2. Yael

    Nice! This brings pure joy to the Turtletown bard service, thank you very much.
    I particularly enjoy
    “And puppeteers pull taut each string
    Attached to marionettes that sing
    The tune that drew this swan of black—”
    that’s dynamite Susan.
    It reminds me of Hebrews 11:3; how “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, I’m over the moon to have brought pure joy to the Turtletown bard service… what a news story… I simply couldn’t turn my back on that one. Thank you very much for your wonderful comment!

      Reply
  3. David Watt

    Susan, your poem entertainingly highlights the fact that at least one black swan event has occurred in China.
    Although it is well known that black swans (Cygnus atratus) are native to Australia, it is less well known that New Zealand had a much larger species (Cygnus sumnerensis) prior to European settlement.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      David, what intriguing golden nuggets of information – thank you! I haven’t seen swans of any colour here in Texas. I used to see white ones regularly and simply adored the black ones at Chartwell, Churchill’s houseback in England. Apparently, Henry VIII ate them as a delicacy at royal banquets. They are now a protected species and there’s a high penalty to pay for killing one. They are definitely not on the Buckingham Palace dinner menu.

      Reply
  4. D.G. Rowe

    Sterling craftmanship. Lovely poetic diction, not an iota of bland descriptive language. We live in foreboding times, indeed we do.

    Cheers very much.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much Mr. Rowe. We do, indeed, live in foreboding times. Let’s hope the appearance of that black swan doesn’t make matters worse.

      Reply
  5. jd

    Beautiful poem, Susan. Thank you. You
    are quite amazingly prolific and in a very
    good way.

    Reply
  6. Brian Yapko

    Susan, what a terrific rondeau! I love how you can see the symbolism in an (ostensibly) random event and mine it for its metaphorical importance. You did that to great effect with your poem On the Collapse of Darwin’s Arch and you do that here to equally great effect. The choice of the rondeau form seems brilliant to me. You’re taking an inherently mannered situation — the interpretation of this portent – -and giving it your own mannered (albeit somewhat irreverent) choreography, as it were. The last stanza really brings it home with some fun alliteration and internal rhyme which bely the horror of the puppeteers pulling the strings of those who would kow-tow to China’s communist overlords — those who willingly sing the tune that has drawn this swan of woe. That’s one of the joys of your poetry — the ironic contrast between the perky manner in which you describe the most awful things. It’s very Swiftian in a way. Very thoughtful, very well done indeed!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I am most grateful for your wonderful, dare I say it, poetic comment… I love the term “…mine it for its metaphorical importance” for its alliterative joy and engaging image. I particularly appreciate your views as I know you have tackled and come to respect the rondeau. I find its a perfect form to get a point across without being overbearing, although, I will admit it’s a little tricky to contend with… but, I love the challenge. The term “Swiftian” has me glowing. I am delighted you enjoyed it! Thank you!

      Reply
  7. Sally Cook

    Dear Susan —

    Interesting topic with possible dire consequences, succinctly expressed, per usual.
    By way of a birthday present, here’s my take on the big black bird:
    Black swan, white cat
    What a pair of creatures; what
    If cat and swan , jet tail, black back
    Can coincide with feathered back,
    Make both beasts brothers, as they must
    Be, both made of the same dark dust.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dearest Sally, I love my unique and beautiful birthday poem – what a wonderful image your words conjure. I see George Lionel wrapped in a downy wing of exquisite beauty purring in delight… heavenly! Thank you for the gift of your friendship and the gift of your poetry.

      Reply
  8. Paul Freeman

    ‘As dullards dance for hack and quack’ nicely sums up everyone’s perspective very poetically.

    Yes, we do all appear to be up the ‘Swan’ee at present.

    Thanks for the read.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      I agree that we’re all up that river, Paul. Some of us are paddling furiously toward the falls, while others are fighting the river’s rush. In the end it might not make much difference, but what kind of world would it be if we could not follow our own stars?

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        It’s not really a river; it’s a creek, Shit Creek, namely.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      We certainly are up the ‘Swan’ee, Paul – what can one do but shout about it, poetically, of course? Thank you for taking the time to read my rondeau.

      Reply
  9. Damian Robin

    This, Susan, is jolly nice.
    Though portents and prophecies entice,
    Their exactness does not suffice …

    This is the first rondeau I’ve read that I’ve got an ‘in’ to — and so have found others that I’ve read directly after to be comprehensible and not just an artificial affectation. Thanks.

    ai also did not know ot this suprising incident till reading the enticing poem.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Damian, thank you for your wonderful poetic comment, and it makes me happy to know you enjoyed my rondeau. I’ve quite fallen in love with the form. It’s tough to get a smooth flow of words in such a tight constraint, but that’s why I like it… it challenges me. As I said above, I simply had to address the black swan news… it begged for a poem. Thank you for all you do poetically, Damian. I’m certain your poetry makes a difference.

      Reply
  10. Mike Bryant

    Susan, I found this story at Whatfinger.com. When I pointed you toward this amazing story I had no idea you would put your signature take on it into a poem. I’m glad you did. The rondeau is brilliant. You always amaze.

    Reply
  11. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, yet another lesson to we lesser poets. I love “bibliomaniac”…what a great word. I remember seeing black swans gliding on the lake by Leeds Castle, which, as you know, is nowhere near Leeds. I wonder if the black variety taste better? Perhaps another ingredient of that File Gumbo you enjoy so much. A very good piece, thank you.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, you have taken me all the way back to Leeds Castle in my home county with your comment – thank you! I’ve had many a wonderful trip there, though, I must say, Hever Castle is my favourite. The last time I visited was 2017, and I’m long overdue another visit. As for eating a swan… I fear the Queen will track me down with her sniffer corgis and I’ll be locked in the Tower of London for treason, so I’ll pass on the swan in my file gumbo. LOL

      Reply
  12. kate farrell

    Susan, I read somewhere that the “Black Swan”
    is meant to suggest that what we don’t know may
    be more important than what we do know.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      I’ll go with that, Kate… although, I have a feeling that what we don’t know is far scarier than what we do know… in which case, I’ll cling on to blissful ignorance for a little longer. Thank you for dropping by.

      Reply

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