.

Birdbrains

a villanelle  

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry 
about his actions.” —Carter G. Woodson

If we just parrot newspeak without blinking
And push prize poppycock as logic fails,
We’re cuckoo and we’ve given up on thinking.

Our minds will end up shriveling and shrinking,
Our eyes will glaze with vision-misting scales,
If we just parrot newspeak without blinking.

If we are oozing schmooze that’s stale and stinking,
If we trounce truth with tailor-made tall tales,
We’re cuckoo and we’ve given up on thinking.

The buoyant heart’s susceptible to sinking,
The shimmer of the spirit always pales,
If we just parrot newspeak without blinking.

If Kool-Aid is the beverage we’re drinking
While treading balderdash and bunkum trails,
We’re cuckoo and we’ve given up on thinking.

Brainwashed flocks don’t see the devil slinking
Between the lines where wickedness prevails…
If we just parrot newspeak without blinking
We’re cuckoo and we’ve given up on thinking.

.

.

Mulling

I think therefore I am. 
I think…
I think a lot
I’ll think…
till neurons shrink
I’ll think…
till musings jam
I’ll think till I am not.

.

.

I Stopped

“Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?” —Winnie the Pooh

I stopped to think, kicked off my shoes—
I stopped to drink in all the views
That scudded past my blinkered eye
Before I sprawled on lawns to lie
Beneath the sky to search for clues…

Beneath the citrus sunrise hues
Beneath a bruise of grays and blues
Beneath the heavens, Heaven high
__I stopped to think.

I stopped to think. I stopped to choose
To ponder over and enthuse
About the what and where and why
Questions thinkers won’t deny.
Neath buxom moons where gurus muse
__I stopped to think.

.

.

Susan Jarvis Bryant has poetry published on Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, Light, Sparks of Calliope, and Expansive Poetry Online. She also has poetry published in TRINACRIA, Beth Houston’s Extreme Formal Poems anthology, and in Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets in the UK). Susan is the winner of the 2020 International SCP Poetry Competition, and has been nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize.


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36 Responses

  1. DONALD PETER McCRORY

    HI SUSAN!

    The theme /subject of THINKING, appeals greatly: but have you ever asked yourself, from where do our thoughts come ?

    Philosophers all talk about ideas, notions, theories concepts etc but none, so it seems to me, have pursued the question I put to you above.
    When Plato in his SYMPOSIUM, examines the origin, growth and nature of Love, what is also needed, I suggest, is a similar treatise on thought!

    Otherwise we are all slaves to the voice in our head that governs our lives: meditation is one way to stop the dictator´s voice, so I have found.

    Maybe these thoughts might encourage you to create other poems?.

    Best, Donald

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for this intriguing comment, Donald. The answer is an emphatic YES! My mind is entertaining many thoughts having just read your words, and even in this almost stream-of-consciousness-flow of an answer, two interesting words leap out at me “entertaining” and “flow”.
      Perhaps our conscious mind is a river of thought that flows continuously. Perhaps thoughts are the living word within us and all around us… in nature, in dreams, in our senses… they may live in our subconscious until we choose to “entertain” them. Maybe thoughts are visitors. We can choose to let them in or not. We can choose to let them live or to let them die. I would like to think thoughts are guests of our choosing, but I don’t believe all of them are which is why I wrote my poem. Some thoughts are thoughts of others foisted upon us. Unwanted visitors. Hence my “Birdbrains” poem.

      Just recently, I wrote the villanelle below, prompted by the thoughts of Dr. Yuval Noah Harari (a Transhumanist & Top Advisor to The WEF). His line of thought bothers me greatly. I believe the thought process is of a spiritual nature that no scientist can begin to understand.

      “We humans should get used to the idea that we are no longer mysterious souls.
      We are now hackable animals.” Dr. Yuval Noah Harari

      Hackable Animal?

      I know that I am more than flesh and bone;
      My heart beats to the music of the spheres.
      Beneath my skin is where my soul was sown.

      I’m independent, yet I’m not alone;
      I revel in the wonder of my peers –
      I know that they are more than flesh and bone.

      I marvel at each different shade and tone
      Of voice and choice – our highs and lows and fears.
      Beneath our skin is where our souls were sown.

      In days when minds are prodded, probed, and prone
      To truthless vows from ruthless racketeers,
      I know that I am more than flesh and bone.

      My spirit can’t be tracked or hacked then thrown
      To greedy ghouls who lap up lab-rat tears.
      Beneath my skin is where my soul was sown.

      No autocratic technocrat will own
      The passion in the prayers my Maker hears.
      I know that I am more than flesh and bone –
      Beneath my skin is where my soul was sown.

      Thank you very much for engaging me in a great deal of thought, which I know will prompt further poetry… always a good thing, for me at least.

      Reply
      • DONALD PETER McCRORY

        HI SUSAN; Thanks a million for your thoughtful reply.

        I have been greatly influenced by the great Indian Classic, THE BHAGAVAD GITA ( Song of God) ADVAITA VEDANTA = non duality Philosophy and by the BUDDHA and most recently by the works of SPINOZA.
        An esotericist and teacher , named Benjamine CREME, the spokesperson for MAITREYA THE CHRIST, once wrote: Thought is the mechanism by which we give shape to the ideas created by the mind.
        His magazine, published monthly = SHARE INTL: it will inspire you!

        Thanks again, Donaldo ( I currently live in Spain, near ALICANTE)

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you very much for your recommendations, Donaldo… I hope you’re enjoying fine weather now the Sahara dust storm has passed. The reading material looks very interesting. You have fired my imagination on the origin of thought and for that I thank you… watch out for some poetry heading in that direction. 🙂

      • Joshua C. Frank

        “Hackable animals?!” I’m sure he meant like you hack a computer, but… I couldn’t help but think of the fact that the pro-abortion crowd has taken this idea to heart, except with “hack” as in “hack to bits”…

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Joshua, I wasn’t thinking of abortion when writing the poem. I do, however, feel you make a valid point. I believe the unborn baby is thought of as a commodity – a soulless piece of meat to be sold for financial gain. In fact, baby parts are being used to keep the heartless, wrinkled monsters of this world youthful… and I thought plots like these were only found in horror novels.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Very Clever! I like your humour. The thinking cap is a stylish accessory… you’re looking good. 😉

      Reply
  2. Mike Bryant

    newspeak
    noo͞′spēk″, nyoo͞′-
    noun
    Deliberately ambiguous and contradictory language used to mislead and manipulate the public.
    A mode of talk by politicians and officials using ambiguous words to deceive the listener.

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      Of course ‘doublethink’, another concept described by Orwell, is just as pertinent in respect to the poems above.

      doublethink
      /ˈdʌb(ə)lθɪŋk/
      noun
      the acceptance of contrary opinions or beliefs at the same time, especially as a result of political indoctrination.

      Reply
      • Mike Bryant

        Doublethink:
        Europe and the USA cause the most “climate change” due to industrialization and overpopulation, but we need to import an infinite number of “climate refugees” to save them from the climate change that WE cause by being overpopulated and industrialized.
        While Seattle burns in the background, the reporter describes the mayhem as a “peaceful protest.”
        Hospitals in London test biological men for pregnancy and do Pap smears on them.
        The Daily Record in Scotland claimed a ‘Scot flashed her penis and used sex toy in public leaving onlookers shocked’.

        This all makes perfect sense to some people.

      • Paul Freeman

        Don’t forget the proliferation of election fraud claims around the world when no election fraud happened.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Now that the great Viktor Orban has been resoundingly re-elected in Hungary, we can expect the usual left-liberal whining about “election fraud.” After Brexit, idiots in the U.K. were screaming about the need for a “do-over.”

      • Mike Bryant

        Dr. Salemi, they already started in on Orban… Tucker Carlson talked about it last night. He also talked about the fact that Elon Musk is now the major stockholder of Twitter and might push for free speech on the platform. The CEO of Twitter explains that they are not concerned about free speech because free speech is easy on the internet, Twitter simply decides which free speech is heard… shades of Orwell.
        Carlson is almost single-handedly taking on newspeak and doublethink.
        Share this amazing video, it’s about 17 minutes of fresh air:

        https://rumble.com/vzqkef-censorship-now-defines-american-life-enter-elon-musk.html

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Joe, the sad thing is those who voted for Brexit haven’t got what they voted for, and the duplicitous Boris Johnson is not the “Conservative” he claimed to be. He’s a full-on Globalist with his thieving hands in the Globalist honeypot backing their tyrannical agenda to the hilt. We have the UK and America fighting for democracy in the Ukraine, when they’ve sold their own undemocratic countries’ souls to the devil.

        I have every admiration for Viktor Orban, a man who knows exactly what it’s like to live under the stomping boot of a dictator. Whatever naff narrative is forced upon the world, at least the majority of Hungary’s citizens know they got exactly who they voted for… sadly, the same can’t be said of many countries right now.

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    All three poems are delightful, and show the unmistakable Susan Bryant touch: clarity, very precise diction, a touch of the playful, and an insistence on truth. The title “Birdbrains” is great for the villanelle, and its epigraph is truly apt.

    One side note: Evan Mantyk has an absolutely preternatural skill in choosing exactly the right illustration for every poem or essay published here at the SCP. It’s always perfect! I hadn’t thought of Godfrey Kneller since graduate-school days when I read the seventeenth-century “advice to a painter” poems.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, thank you very much for your encouraging observations. I work hard on making the message in my poems clear. That’s the bit I sweat over. The rest of it is playtime and I have more fun than I should with it… time passes, dust gathers, grass grows, all in the blink of an eye… or so it seems when I am waltzing through time with words.

      I agree with you on the picture front. Evan, your “preternatural skill in choosing exactly the right illustration” is thoroughly appreciated. Thank you!

      Reply
  4. Brian Yapko

    Susan, another three winning, witty and observant poems which are a delight to read and re-read.

    I especially like your Birdbrains villanelle because it is a cartoon wearing the tuxedo of a formal poetic form through which a series of painfully grown-up observations are made. Could Swift have done it any better? It’s a brave poem with a dozen examples of prosody to admire, but what I’ll zero in on is the fact that you are able to get away with a supremely harsh (albeit entertaining) assessment of human stupidity by simply using the word “we” rather than “they.” That simple decision made all the difference.

    I’m not sure how to assess “Mulling”’s form but I’m guessing that it’s “inspired by” a triolet rather than a formal triolet. Not that it matters. It succinctly speaks volumes of what it means to be a thinking person.

    There is finally your rondeau, which is as splendid as any I’ve seen. I love the speaker lying on the grass and pondering what it all means, but I’m a little perplexed by what you mean by “bruise” of grays and blues. It’s a great image with a great sound effect but I feel like I’m missing some meaning here. A bruising of the sky meaning… God? Something else? Or are you just playing with colors? Am I overthinking this? (Ironic for a poem about thinking!) Either way, I love it. And I especially love your buxom moons and musing gurus.

    Such wonderful work! Now the hard part. Get people to think!!!!

    Reply
  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Brian, you have tapped into my creative process perfectly, yet again! This poem was inspired by a particularly sad bout of ignorance from yet another duped soul latching on to the latest in-thing the mockingbird media are pushing. I swapped my initial “they” for “we” for reasons of decorum. Oh dear, my honesty is going to get me in even more trouble than I’m already in after a week of standing up for women and children. Oops… I’ll risk it. Your comparison with Swift has me beaming.

    “Mulling” is an amuse bouche between poetic courses… something that came into my head and made me smile. I wanted to share it. It’s as simple as that.

    The rondeau (my favorite) was playtime with a deeper meaning… and you spotted that deeper meaning. I believe there’s many a lesson in nature… in the heavens especially. I wanted to revel in the majesty of God with the sheer wonder of a sunset juxtaposed with the wrath of God, the hint of a bruise that can turn His beauty to a raging storm in an instant… and I’m not talking climate change here. As for the image of a buxom moon looming over a musing guru… it made me grin, and I hoped my grin would be contagious.

    I truly believe one, hopefully some, may be donning a thinking cap (most fetching) after reading my poems… I’m ever the optimist. Brian, thank you very much!

    Reply
    • C.B Anderson

      Yes, Susan, “Birdbrains” races headlong down fast lanes, but there were no traffic accidents.

      “Mulling” is an enigma. No, I don’t mean a new poetic fixed form called an enigma, but a pared-down distillation of the basic Cartesian idea. In short, You are.

      “I Stopped” made me want to write a rondeau, something I have never done.

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        C.B., I thoroughly appreciate your comment, and very much look forward to reading your rondeau – I have far more fun with this form than I’m sure is allowed for a serious poet. Thank you!

  6. C.B. Anderson

    Terrific work, Susan. I had a lot of much more detailed comments planned, but for some reason the comment engine here refuses to upload anything I write.

    Reply
  7. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, I love your Villanelles. It is such a great format that bounces along with great gusto and this would win first prize at a rap convention. I mulled over mulling and then stopped dead at the genius of “buxom moons where gurus muse” I will head for the pub now to cogitate on these three knowing that a bottle in front of me is far better than a frontal lobotomy. I drink, therefore I am.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, thank you so much for this appreciative and cheery comment. In fact, the bottle in front of me/frontal lobotomy had me laughing long and loud… laughter really is the best cure for these trying times. A daily dose of Eardley wit should be obligatory. I do believe you’d be well on the way to saving the planet if only you could bottle and distribute your brand of medicine. I’d be the first in line at the pub. With much appreciation.

      Reply
  8. Mia

    Dear Susan, Thank you for more thought provoking poetry and comments.

    If I could only arrange my thoughts as poetically as you…but anyway the
    following came out of this thread.

    Your thinking is my kind of thinking
    For I have spent my life linking
    The dots, only to find to my chagrin
    I am back to where I first began.

    Some say, it’s not the destination,
    It’s the journey, but I am not so sure,
    For what is the point of roaming
    In the wilderness and in pain,

    When it’s plain, it’s all a plan to
    Keep us pliant, compliant, frail
    And unaware, that the breath He
    Breathed into each is the Holy Grail.

    For there is no point in gaining the whole
    World only to lose one’s soul and become
    Flotsam and jetsam to a demon-god,
    Who dances on the hacked, but living corpse.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      Mia, I came to compliment Susan’s work, but here is your poem so lovely in its thought and words! The destination really is the point, even though how we think, speak, and behave on the journey may determine where we end up.

      Reply
      • Mia

        Dear Margaret, Thank you so much, your lovely comment means a lot to me. I think the perspective that I gained from your sonnets found expression here.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Mia, as Margaret rightly says, ‘your poem so lovely in its thought and words’ and it is a privilege to have it shining from this page. I especially like the observation in the third stanza. In the guise of care, the wicked are most certainly keeping us “pliant, compliant, [and] frail”. The sad thing is not everyone knows who the enemy is… that’s why duplicitous devils are able to get away with so much. Your beautiful words and your thoughts are always appreciated. Thank you very much, Mia!

      Reply
      • Mia

        Dear Susan, Thank you so much. I am quite overwhelmed that both you and Margaret have made lovely comments. Thank you also for the inspiration. I don’t know what to write although there is so much I could say, but I will just say thank you again.

  9. Margaret Coats

    Susan, did you intend to have the title “Birdbrains” in a smaller-size font than the other titles? Appropriate if so. I think it the best of these three poems, and it reminds me of Thomas Hardy’s villanelle, “The Caged Thrush Freed and Home Again.” Hardy’s thrush may be a bird, but his brain is capable of discovering that human beings are not gods, and indeed that they miss what a simple bird thinks is the point of life. In your villanelle, I like especially that we find the parrot in one refrain and the cuckoo in the other, with the bad stereotypes of both birds magnified in human birdbrains. Admirable design!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Margaret, thank you very much for this. I am a fan of Thomas Hardy, but I’ve never read his villanelle. I love it and I’m thrilled with the comparison. I will admit to laughing when I chose the parrot and the cuckoo… the title came after and seemed oh so hilariously appropriate. I wish I could claim I was the one who made the decision on font size. That artistic stroke of genius is down to Evan. He has the eye of a hawk and unerring aesthetic instincts when showcasing a poet’s work. Thank you, Evan!

      Reply
  10. Cynthia Erlandson

    As always, Susan, your poems are full of beauty, and truth, and often humor. And I love that you quoted Winnie the Pooh, who in spite of his humility is a very good poet, and not a bad philosopher!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Cynthia, thank you very much for dropping by and thank you for your lovely words. Winnie the Pooh is my go-to poet and philosopher. When this crazy world is spinning way too fast for me to keep up with, a guiding paw from my honey-tongued friend always sets me back on track.

      Reply

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