I feel a fleshless presence:
A faceless, soulless call
To tomb-doom acquiescence
Beyond a graveyard wall,
Where ghoulish effervescence
And ghostly iridescence
In moon-kissed opalescence
Enthrall at evenfall.

I hear an eerie sighing.
It jars me to the bone:
A petrifying crying
Beneath a marble stone.
The moan is terrifying.
The tone is mystifying.
What spook is occupying
The dust-and-ashes zone?

I feel grim goosebumps prickle.
My knuckles burn bright white.
Cold sweat begins to trickle.
I’m riding tides of fright.
I’m in an awful pickle;
The reaper’s whispers tickle
The ears that fear his sickle
Will scythe on through the night.

Each year this fear comes rocking
And rolling up my street.
Its visit’s always shocking.
My heart cranks up a beat.
My knees begin a-knocking
As zombies come a-flocking
All snickering and mocking
And shrieking, “Trick or treat!”

first published in Expansive Poetry Online (2021).


Ode to an Arachnid

I saw you in your lacy lair today;
Those threads of sticky trickery you weave.
Your silken snare for unsuspecting prey
Is steely artistry spun to deceive.
Ambrosial aerial tidbits flit into
Diaphanous exquisiteness… and death.
Your deft octet of legs, they writhed and wrapped
Your fresh and flapping manna right on cue.
A shudder scuttled over goosy flesh;
I gasped and gawped and grimaced as you snacked.

I heard one of your ilk lunched on a finch.
This fiend of fatal fang had sucked him dry.
Such juicy rumination makes me flinch,
Yet still I will not pass your wonder by—
To face my fear may force a long-sought cure.
I spy your lusty greed beneath the moon,
Entangled in a silver-spangled gleam
Of bristling, bulbous spider-bride allure
Feasting on a scrumptious little groom…
I fail to quell my shrill and hellish scream!

first published in Snakeskin Poetry UK (2021)



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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29 Responses

  1. Peter Hartley

    Susan – Boo!!! Excellent, with a dodgily difficult but consistently maintained rhyme scheme in four stanzas that had me searching in vain for an “obsolescence”, but “moon-kissed opalescence” instantly assuaged my disappointment. Ode to an Arachnid. I can’t believe any spider has ever been worthy of such a splendid panegyric and I don’t think a better description of a cobweb has ever been written. You remind me just how cuddly a tarantula can be, especially while engaged in noshing a dead finch. Splendid imagery in juicy rumination and bristly bulbous spider-bride. Mouth-watering indeed!

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Peter, I’m pleased to hear my moon-kissed opalescence soothed the initial disappointment, and I am even happier to hear that my ode has highlighted the cuddly traits of a tarantula (thank you for the tongue-in-cheek snigger). My sole aim was to dispel fear, although, it didn’t work for me. I still shiver whenever I think of a spider and suppress a rising scream whenever I see one. If E.B. White couldn’t cure my arachnophobia with cute little Charlotte, there’s no hope. Thank you very much for your encouraging and entertaining comment!

  2. Brian Yapko

    What a charming treat for Halloween! Thank you, Susan, for these two highly enjoyable poems. “Boo” is an especially fun read because of your rollicking, frolicking meter and the combo platter of your delicious word-choices and rhymes. There are many linguistic treats here but I want to give a special shout-out to “the moan is terrifying/the tone is mystifying” because — expert word-smith that you are — you basically replaced the M and the T in two consecutive lines to fine effect. I also love the appropriateness of your rhyme-scheme which is basically two rhymes — two choices — per stanza. A perfect vehicle to celebrate trick or treat.

    I admire your Ode to spiders without necessarily loving it. No fault of yours but, like Ron Weasley, I have a deep antipathy to our fanged little eight-legged friends. That being said, you did a fantastic and spooky job of bringing these monstrous little creatures to poetic life. I especially like the cannibalistic bride feasting on her groom. Your lacy lair is truly scary although in the end I think it is more Tim Burton than Dante.

    Well done and Happy Halloween!

    • C.B. Anderson

      I should point out, Brian, that “terrifying” & “mystifying” do not really rhyme at all, because “terrify” does not rhyme with “mystify.” All you have here is a trivial rhyme of “-fy” with “-fy.” Transposing two letters in similar words in consecutive lines, however, is a very good idea because the reader can really “hear” it. It’s one of those tricks of the trade a good wordsmith will eventually discover.

      • Brian Yapko

        You are quite right, C.B. I was inaccurate but got caught up in enthusiasm for the neat transposition. Thanks for keeping me accurate.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, thank you very much for your appreciation of my poems, including my linguistic treat of wicked trickery in keeping with Halloween. Being honest, I wish I could claim “the moan is terrifying/the tone is mystifying” is a trick of the trade (as C.B. points out). It happened by accident not by design… I am still striving to reach the dizzy heights of Accomplished Wordsmith – my ears and heart have got there before my brain has caught up with them.

      As for my ode, I also have a deep antipathy toward those fanged fiends. In fact, they terrify me! So much so, I have embarrassed myself on more than one occasion in the presence of my fear and horrified those witnessing my unseemly outbursts. The only apparent ‘cure’ I have found is exposure. I am undergoing therapy at the moment… with the assistance of a chilled glass of Viognier and a zoom lens.

      Wishing you a very happy, spider-free Halloween!

      • C.B. Anderson

        What I meant, Susan, is that certain sonic tricks, e.g.:

        I hope that this benign refrain is true,
        And so, my reigning valentine, should you.

        Are almost instinctive, and, when stumbled upon, are irresistible to the sound-sensitive poet. Transposing consonants or almost any kind of metathesis are examples.

  3. Julian D. Woodruff

    Building lacy lairs? Catching and eating finches (& probably laying their eggs in them, too)? What else can they do?
    Susan, your spider send-up is going to have me eying every nook and cranny for a good while.
    What about us has us indulge dismay
    To watch these wardens trap and feast on prey?

    • C.B. Anderson

      Spiders, Julian, have their problems too. In Arizona there is a wasp called the tarantula hawk. And I have seen other kinds of wasps here in Massachusetts give chase to spiders they have frightened from their webs. Forget about scary spiders, and think about scared spiders.

      • Julian D. Woodruff

        Yes, CB, I am aware that spiders get “done to” by various insects. There’s footage in a Disney film (The Living Desert?) of a tarantula losing to a wasp. But this is the equivalent of hand to hand combat. I think the real thing with spiders is that lethally restrictive “lacy lair.” Ergo 8 legs bad!

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Julian, I’ve missed you and I’m glad you’re back! Thank you very much for your spine-tingling, Halloween horror of a comment. The mere thought of a spider laying its eggs in the bloodless husk of a finch has given me goosebumps. I thought their eight eyes and eight scuttling legs was enough to raise the hairs on the back of my neck… I was horribly wrong. Those finch-encased hatchlings are now ingrained in the phobia-lobe of my brain.

  4. Sally Cook

    Dear Susan –
    Your first poem marvelously extends the anticipation each child feels when wandering the streets trick and treating. I recall so many of those clouded nights when it seemed the entire neighborhood swelled with strange creatures demanding a reward for their strangeness, and getting it ! How we reveled in our attempts at being — not human — but something other.
    Later, living alone in the city, things seemed more sinister. And when I heard adult voices, I rushed into the street wearing a pointy blue nose and chased them up the street. Ah, memories.
    In short, I loved the well-constructed tensions of your evocative tribute to all ex-children, and their cherished memories.
    The second poem, not so much.
    Happy Halloween, dear Susan

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dearest Sally, I love your comment and those images of Halloween it portrays. What an intriguing painting or poem they would make – especially the Blue-Nosed Banshee of All Hallows Eve. Those entire neighborhoods swelling with strange creatures demanding a reward for their strangeness, and getting it, sounds very much like the world we live in today. For the PC police, please note that this is a joke… a comedic quip that used to bring a laugh or grin once upon a time. As for my ode, I fully appreciate your feelings on that one. I had chills and shivers when I wrote it… it should come with a warning.

      Thank you very much for your fine, creative eye and your wonderful observations.

  5. Yael

    These are some nice Halloween-themed rhymes Susan, thank you. I especially like some of the more whimsical word choices you made in BOO! which sustain the interesting rhyme pattern. Much to my surprise it sounds mostly natural, almost as if we could all talk like this all the time.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, thank you for your great comment. Would you believe me if I told you, Mike and I speak in rhyming couplets and at Halloween we communicate using the rhyme scheme of BOO!… it’s a tradition in the Bryant household we cannot break with. 😉

      • Yael

        Susan, I wouldn’t doubt it at all, even if you told me that non-rhyming speech is completely verboten in the Bryant household at all times, even when someone accidentally hits their thumb with a hammer!

  6. David Watt

    Susan, your use of alternating feminine endings in “Boo” is frighteningly well done! I also love the generous employment of alliteration in “Ode to an Arachnid”.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      David, thank you for your treat of a comment… the “frighteningly well done” hasn’t passed me by… I love the hex of lexical trickery at Halloween. As for the highly alliterative ode… I had hoped it would garner admiration for the cunning skill of this much-feared critter… I think I’ve failed miserably. When the author cannot bear to read her own poem again… something’s gone horribly wrong. Mwah-ha-ha!

  7. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, until today, I was only ever terrified by 1) The huge spider in the 1940 movie, “The thief of Baghdad” 2) My time as part time bass-player in Gothic Horror band, “Doris Karloff and the crypt-kicker Five” and 3) Greta Thunberg and her zombie entourage heading for Glasgow. These two exquisite pieces have sent us scuttling to the cupboard under the stairs until this scary day is over. I really don’t know how you do it. A frighteningly good read today.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Susan, I too suffer from arachnophobia. I CAN’T STAND any kind of spider, and I immediately lash out and kill such insects as soon as they come into view. I once saw a televised nature show that filmed a baby chick that had fallen from its nest, and how a huge tarantula crawled over to the helpless thing and killed it. Whenever I think of Hell, I think of that film strip.

      Some animal creatures on God’s earth do not deserve to exist. I don’t care what anyone says.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Though no spider is a good friend of mine, I have no problem with them in general. Contrariwise, some of my best friends are liberals, and I have a real problem with liberals.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Joe S., it heartens me to hear that arachnophobia goes hand-in-hand with a gift for writing fine poetry… from here on in, I’ll embrace my fear with pride!

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, I’m thrilled to hear my poems hit the scare nerve… what stiff competition! Number 1, 2, and 3 would have me scuttling to the cupboard under the stairs. Your praise is high indeed. Thank you.

      Mike is laughing at the cupboard under the stairs. I insist upon having a cupboard under the stairs in my one story house in Texas… every English woman has one!

  8. Cynthia Erlandson

    I’ll just add that I’m amazed at your tour de force in so many categories all at once: alliteration, assonance, rhyme/internal rhyme, rhythm, musicality in general! Not to mention scintillating imagery. (None of which is a surprise, of course, based on all we’ve seen before of your work: it always shines and sings!)

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Cynthia, it’s wonderful to have an accomplished poet acknowledge my efforts… I thoroughly appreciate your kind words. Thank you!

  9. Roy E. Peterson

    Among other distinguishing and distinguished facile handling of the English language, you are the masterful crafter of alliteration that sings to us as we read.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Roy, thank you very much for your lovely comment. I am enjoying your work and hope to read much more of it!


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