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Bywords

Language rang and wedged within our mind.
Centuries of words were drawn like swords.
A surfeit, rhymes, soliloquies entwined,
As singers fingered perfectly rung chords.

Linguals clang, the cymbals of the tongue.
Vowels, our open mouths fling ahs with ease.
Sibilance sees esses struck and sung.
Tones lift and fall to bring out melodies.

When words cannot be saved, we wave goodbye.
They leave us poorer, each a telling dart.
Will language languish? Will we let it die?
Wishes won’t save symbols of our heart.

Fight destruction or our voice falls short;
Our speech and freedom are on life support.

.

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Trivialities

A drip in the ocean,
A star in the sky,
A fly in the lotion,
The truth in a lie…

Dust and water,
Earth and light,
Son or daughter,
Weakness, might…

Love and laughter,
Day and night,
Ever after,
Blindness, sight…

First or last
And all that’s coming,
All that’s past,
And all hearts drumming…

You and me are
We together.
On this star,
We fear the nether.

Yes, the curtain
Surely closes.
Life’s uncertain…
Ashes… roses…

.

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Mike Bryant is a poet and retired plumber living on the Gulf Coast of Texas.


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24 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    Two excellent poems, but
    I’m into little, and “Trivialities” is the biggest little poem I’ve ever read.
    Bravo, Mike.

    Reply
  2. Jeff Eardley

    Mike, in “Bywords” I love, “ When words cannot be saved, we wave goodbye,” The loss of eloquence these days is so depressing. Your poem should be on the lips of every English teacher as a reminder of what we have lost. “Trivialities” is a little gem with a reminder that “Ashes” and “Roses” is either the way we will all end up, or a great name for a rock band.
    Great stuff and most enjoyable.

    Reply
  3. Cheryl Corey

    Both excellent. I love “Trivialities”, with the final imagery – the closing curtain, ashes and roses.

    Reply
  4. Brian Yapko

    Mike, thank you for both of these intriguing and entertaining poems. Bywords is a delightful celebration of sound with a interesting preponderance of “L” and “S” sounds (languishing language, sibilant esses) which – by design? Coincidence? – ultimately come together in the phrase “life support.” Will language languish? Not with poems like this!

    As for “Trivialities” – I love the ironic title. Your list of opposites and apposites is both fine and wise. There’s some sleight of hand going on here because you invoke a number of cliched pairings and then you yoke together some unexpected ones (The truth in a lie, all hearts drumming.) What I really like best is the line “we fear the nether” which carries a lot of weight for what seems like a throw-away line. And the last line – “ashes… roses…” is a gut-punch of unspoken associations.

    These are both quite wonderful.

    Reply
  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    I read “Bywords” as a lament for the steady disappearance, even in upper-level discourse, of many words (and definitional and grammatical distinctions) that were once common knowledge among the educated. Few people can distinguish between who and whom, or that and which, or “number” and “amount,” or even the proper spelling of woman and women.

    Bryant connects this, in his final couplet, with the very palpable loss of freedom of speech and thought in modern society

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      We are certainly seeing a degradation of grammar in many publications. Every word we lose takes an idea with it. Thanks.

      Reply
  6. Peter Hartley

    Mike. Bywords, headed by my favourite painting in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, U.K. is full of memorable lines, visual and verbal puns, gentle tongue-twisters, words/swords, and “fling ahs with ease,” clever little homonyms, Good sight rhymes. Neatly done, with a snappy last line.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      But, no matter what, I’ll never be able to match Susan’s pyrotechnics. Thanks, Peter.

      Reply
  7. C.B. Anderson

    There is nothing trivial about “Trivialities”. And it was very nicely done, too. It was pithy and authentic, but also expansive and possibly life-changing.

    Poems like “Bywords” make me wish I had majored in linguistics. You have done many a cool thing here I don’t have the technical expertise to describe. In the end (the final couplet), you leave me wondering whether you are trending toward the political dimension or the literary dimension, though it’s not obvious that the two dimensions are disconnected.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Think of what the two writers George Orwell and Ezra Pound (from widely separate parts of the political spectrum) said: the corruption of language is always followed by the corruption of good government.

      Reply
  8. Yael

    Very nice poems Mike, as usual. Trivialities is by far my favorite though. I love the terseness which gives way to highly evocative mental pictures. It reminds me of Pink Floyd’s Us And Them so much that I can hear the music in my mind while I read your poem. It’s delightful; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LezoMi3yftM

    Reply
  9. Paul Freeman

    It’s sad indeed the way the English language is being jargonised and dumbed down into textspeak.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking read, Brian

    Reply
  10. David Watt

    Both poems are excellent Mike. I particularly like the dimeter “Trivialities” thoughtful look at life and our humble place in this world.

    Reply

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