.

O Say, Can You See?  

Let’s think as we sink into star-spangled wonder,
Intolerable acts were the reason to fight
Each pillaging bully who’d brazenly plunder
The treasures of those who were drawn to the light.

Let’s ponder the journey, the valiant history
Of pilgrims in search of the land of the free.
The home of the brave is their glorious story
As vast as the sky and as cruel as the sea.

Fierce ancestry roars in the soaring red splendor
Of rockets at twilight that gleam in our eyes—
A dream of those days when hearts didn’t surrender
To tyranny, villainy, lockdowns and lies.

Hear yesterday’s cry to the souls of tomorrow—
Descendants of heroes who fought for today:
Squander our gift and you’ll wallow in sorrow.  
We paid for your freedom. Don’t throw it away!   

.

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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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24 Responses

  1. Stuti

    I enjoyed all of it but these lines, in particular, I find remarkable –

    ‘Each pillaging bully who’d brazenly plunder
    The treasures of those who were drawn to the light.’ and

    ‘Fierce ancestry roars in the soaring red splendor
    Of rockets at twilight that gleam in our eyes—
    A dream of those days when hearts didn’t surrender
    To tyranny, villainy, lockdowns and lies.’

    Thank you for this read, Susan!

    Reply
  2. Russel Winick

    Susan:

    What a perfect counterpoint to all the noise from those who see no reason to celebrate today, and only want to condemn this country. I follow their noise since we must keep our eyes wide open, but an ounce of your message is worth infinitely more than a ton of anything they have to say.

    Reply
  3. Brian Yapko

    Susan, a spectacular invocation of the “star spangled wonder” of the remarkable nation we live in and cherish. Your images and language shine as you present an insightful reminder of all that America was founded upon, what it stands for and what it stands to lose if anti-patriots have their way. The United States was born to fight back against tyranny and although I rarely think of the founders as “fierce” indeed they were! We must never allow tyranny to go unanswered — especially in these dark days when a huge segment of the population seems willing to throw liberty away so that nonsensical ideologies can be foisted upon people in autocratic ways that would make Stalin proud. Thank you for this wonderful Independence Day poem. May its message spread far and wide.

    Reply
  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    The yesterday / tomorrow / today — in fact, the whole last quatrain — is so full of wisdom. The whole poem makes me want to wave the flag! And I love the way you used Francis Scott Key’s anapestic meter, but turned inside-out, so to speak, with the first and third lines of each quatrain having the feminine ending, instead of Key’s second and fourth ending that way — as if things at our point in history have been reversed.
    It just so happens that this morning I re-read your “The North Pole’s on Lockdown” from this year’s SCP Journal, which was quite on the same theme; I loved that one, too, especially “grinchy old Grouch, the Chief of Disease.”

    Reply
  5. Roy E. Peterson

    Susan, your last quatrain is wonderfully plaintive, reflective and projective! I particularly love the idea of italicizing the final couplet. That makes your words an even more stark warning! The entire poem is a stirring rendition perfect for this and future Independence Days.

    Reply
  6. Sally Cook

    As the Biden-ites go back in time to rationalize all that they impose on us today, I find the honesty of your lines even more compelling than they would be if viewed as a straight-on patriotic poem.
    I’ve known liars, and the worst of them simply insist that they are right because it is THEY who are speaking. And they never give up. Even when it is obvious they are straight out of the looney bin, they insist that they’re right. No such convoluted deception in this poem !
    The honesty of your truths shine through. And that’s what all this star-spangled stuff is all about.

    Reply
  7. Joseph S. Salemi

    I can’t add any more praise to the avalanche of it that Susan’s poem has received. What a great piece — and wow, did she do it quickly!

    The poem speaks of the tough fighting spirit and defiance of our Founding Fathers, and their refusal to accept meekly the dictates of arrogant higher authorities. And they won! Let’s not forget the lines from Key’s
    “Star-Spangled Banner” that no one wants to quote anymore:

    And where is that band, who so vauntingly swore
    That the clamor of war and the battle’s confusion
    A home and a country would leave us no more?
    Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Quote them anymore? I never knew they existed! Thanks, Joseph, for posting them. I’ll look into what might turn out to be several unknown verses.

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        There are four 8-line stanzas, with the last two lines of each being a refrain. Joseph quotes from verse three. Worth looking up–and make sure you don’t accept the mere 8 lines usually sung, and often cited as “the” national anthem lyrics.

  8. Julian D. Woodruff

    Truly wonderful, Susan
    Fierce as all get out, but what I most admire about it is its encouraging, rallying tone. Last year I wrote a parody of “The Star Spangled Banner”; it came out pretty well, I guess, but it is all snide and negative (focusing on the present, whereas your poem looks to the past). Accentuating the positive really lifts your lines. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  9. Margaret Coats

    Susan, your poem celebrates freedom as a gift from fighting forefathers who knew what freedom was for. It’s not the lazy freedom to do or say whatever pleases us, and certainly not to persecute anyone who may make us uncomfortable. It’s freedom for self-government, home, family, property, and especially for life and truth.

    Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”

    Reply
  10. Yael

    Great Independence Day poem Susan, thank you! I really like how you slipped the lockdowns in there. Happy 4th of July to everyone, wherever you may be today.

    Reply
  11. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, a really great poem on your special day. The last two lines say it all. I hope it lands on the desk of the president. Great stuff.

    Reply
  12. Joshua C. Frank

    Well done Susan! It goes straight to the point: the early Americans fought for freedom, and we can’t have freedom unless we keep fighting like they did. Makes me wish I knew what to do about our freedoms being taken away…

    Reply
  13. Anna J. Arredondo

    Susan,
    I loved this, written in your rollicking style but with a wonderfully sober message honoring our nation’s history and heritage. I especially appreciate the final stanza.

    Reply
  14. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    A big THANK YOU for all the wonderful comments on my poem – I am thrilled with the responses and thoroughly appreciate your feedback on this celebratory day.

    It was a pleasure and an honor to become an American citizen in 2018. The U.S.A. is a wonderful place full of welcoming people who all have their own intriguing ancestries and interesting stories. I am proud to be a part of her rich heritage and to call this glorious land my home. That is why I always endeavor to pushback against insidious idiocy with poetry, and today’s poem needed to be written. I thoroughly appreciate this marvelous site and the encouragement and support of my fellow poets.

    Happy Independence Day!!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      We’re blessed to have you here, Susan! And someday I’m going to steal your marvelous phrase “insidious idiocy”!

      Reply
  15. David Watt

    A wonderfully inspiring poem Susan. You couldn’t have summed it up better than “tyranny, villainy, lockdowns, and lies.”

    Reply
  16. C.B. Anderson

    Nowadays people might get the idea that the line really goes: José, can you see?

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Ha! Kip, I recall that same joke from junior high school, when I was studying Spanish. In the French class, somebody said that the nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill” should be “Chacun Gilles…”

      Reply

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