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Awake 

At night I quake and lie awake in bed.
My racing mind likes pacing to and fro.
My thoughts, they peck and caw just like a crow.
I’m in the grip of woe from tip to toe.
The paradise I knew is lost or dead—
At night I quake and lie awake in bed.

My head is shrouded in a cloud of dread.
A veil of darkness dims my guiding light.
A grim penumbra lingers in my sight.
I pine for times before this frightful blight.
At night I quake and lie awake in bed—
My head is shrouded in a cloud of dread.

I mull and muse until I’ve lost the thread.
I ponder on the after-dinner news.
Women are extinct. They leave no clues
To what they were— the whys, the wheres, the whos.
My head is shrouded in a cloud of dread—
I mull and muse until I’ve lost the thread.

I moon till Venus, Mars, and stars have fled,
Till Earth and what it’s worth have fallen flat,
Till blame and shame are foisted on a bat,
Till rats run with a fat-cat technocrat.
I mull and muse until I’ve lost the thread—
I moon till Venus, Mars, and stars have fled.

I mourn as dawn is born in cherry red.
I watch the pigs and rooster rise and fly
To greener scenes beyond this scarlet sky.
I brave the new world with a wistful eye.
The paradise I knew is lost or dead—
I mourn as dawn is born in cherry red.

Originally published in Expansive Poetry Online

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Fly Me to the Moon… 

 

When scorn is cloaked in care’s disguise, 

When suckers swallow saccharine lies, 

When ears are deaf to warning cries—

__The world has lost its way. 

 

When eyes are blind to brutish deeds, 

When minds don’t question crooked creeds, 

When heroes fall and no heart bleeds—

__The world has lost its way. 

 

When fear is fed as daily bread, 

When human touch stokes thoughts of dread,  

When hugs and hopes are all but dead—

__The world has lost its way. 

  

When every door is barred and locked,  

When every pilgrim’s path is blocked, 

When every plea for freedom’s mocked—

__The world has lost its way. 

 

When preachers cast the devil’s spell, 

When fate waits at the gates of hell,  

When no one hears the children yell—

__The world has lost its way. 

 

When sunless souls stroll starless nights, 

When spirits die along with rights, 

Turn off the lights, I’ll book our flights—

__Two rocket seats—one way.

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Fossil  

  

They gathered at the entrance of the park  

On roller skates and two-wheeled steeds of steel,  

All set to ride until the dawn of dark  

And hunger chased them home to evening’s meal.  

They conjured realms of wonder in the wild— 

That world of witch and warlock in the shade  

Beneath the oaks where every local child  

Would fly a dragon through the bluebell glade.  

  

They played away from home without a phone.  

They hid where wrinkled sages never pry.   

They danced where seeds of gut and grit are sown.  

They stared a pterodactyl in the eye.  

  

These roots have blessed the boomer dinosaurs  

With granite spines and blockhead-blasting roars.    

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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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36 Responses

  1. Brian Yapko

    Susan, what fun you are having with angst! I enjoy (and relate to) “Wake” and those hours of racing thoughts while trying to sleep. A truly interesting structure with an a-b-b-b–a-a rhyme scheme in which the first and last lines are the same – it’s like that nighttime earworm that repeats and twirls around in one’s head and one simply can’t get rid of. I like your reference to Venus and Mars which strikes me as a not-so-subtle allusion to traditional gender norms (as in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.) That makes it all the worse when Venus and Mars have fled. As I read it, they’re not just fleeing because it’s dawn.

    Interesting how the “moon” theme then resurfaces in “Fly Me to the Moon” which also has a neat structure, only in this case it’s not the earworm of night, it’s a more menacing building up of steam until the locomotive is fully out of control. The world has indeed lost it’s way and I’m glad you present it so artfully, lucidly and without mincing words. I’ve written a poem (not nearly as good as this) called “Shipping Off to Mars” which I had thought too cynical for submission, but you know something…? You’ve inspired me to give it a second look. I’m inspired to join you on that one-way rocket.

    “Fossil” is a very interesting sonnet. It’s at once a nostalgia piece about the imagination of young children and how playtime once meant leaving the computer and going outside and actually doing things “beneath the oaks.” Witches, warlocks, dragons, dinosaurs. All great subjects for fantasy. Then we look at the third quatrain (studiously separated from the first two) which has a bit of edge. This is more than just playing fantasy. This is about the building of character, free from cellphones and influence of adults (whose influence can no longer be trusted) in some field where “guts and grit are sown.” It was this type of now-extinct childhood – one free from the corruption children experience daily today – in which spines of granite and truth-telling were born. I see why you call it “Fossil.” I love it. This is my favorite poem of the set, but all three are splendid.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I really appreciate your insightful analyses of my poems and this one has me grinning. I am loathe to admit this on a public forum, but now you’ve cottoned on – oh what pure guilty pleasure a bit of angst brings me… the world is collapsing around me and I’m waltzing with my enthusiastic Muse through heady realms of untapped poetry. How naughty!!

      On a serious note, you are spot on with the earworm. I wanted to write a poem that was repetitive and a little mystical… words that conjured an ethereal, feverish, pacing agitation… a sort of eerie state of worry. You’re also right on the Venus/Mars front. I like to hint at problems lurking on the periphery. The moon always intrigues me, with its crazy beauty and hypnotic influences. You have picked up on all I wanted to portray in “Fossil”. It’s one of those poems that took all of fifteen minutes to write because it was already living inside me… I just had to release it. And when I did, I shed a tear for the freedoms children today cannot revel in. Brian, thank you very much indeed.

      Reply
  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Susan, am I wrong, or are you referencing the old song “Fly Me to the Moon” in the second poem? It began as follows:

    Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the stars;
    Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.
    In other words, hold my hand…
    In other words, darling, kiss me…

    Really nice work in all three pieces. I hope I’m one of those boomer dinosaurs.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, thank very much and yes! You are right in your “Fly Me to the Moon” observation. I did, however, write the poem before choosing the title. The poem was so darn miserable; I had made our future here on earth sound so damn dismal, there was only one title for it… when I started humming the music as I was reading the poem, I was a lot happier, and hoped this beautiful and quirky song would soothe the shock of my words for any potential boomer reader. As for boomer dinosaurs – you are a fine example. Joe, you exude boomer dinosaur in a way I can only aspire to. I was born on the boomer/generation X cusp, and I am busy nurturing my boomer traits… I hope to be in full dinosaur roar soon!

      Reply
  3. Jack “Michael” Dashiell

    Though the content is bleak, especially in Awake, you still manage to write with energy and passion of striking constancy, that is, you’re relentlessly forthcoming. If even angry or sad, the force is with you because it dwells inside.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Michael, what a beautiful comment. Thank you very much indeed! I hope my Darth-Vader-lightsaber force works its magic for many a year to come.

      Reply
  4. Russel Winick

    Susan – They’re all excellent, of course, but Fossil is my favorite too. Boomer dinosaurs unite!!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Russel, boomer dinosaurs unite indeed! May their granite spines and blockhead-blasting roars get this wayward world back on track! Thank you!

      Reply
  5. Michael Pietrack

    All three show your talent, but Fossil hit me in the heart. I’m not a boomer, but I can relate to how different play is from my time as a child. I was gone all day with no phone and just a bike. My girls have trackers in their phones, bulletproof backpacks, and I can’t even let them ride their bikes around the block. I feel for them.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Michael. Sadly, your words are true. It’s so different for children today and I believe they suffer for it. Writing this poem made my heart ache for those fearless times of freedom. It makes one wonder whether the next generations will ever get to taste the beauty of liberty. Let’s hope so.

      Reply
  6. Yael

    Fly Me To The Moon… really speaks to me Susan, it’s very well done. I like the concise and focused language and the quick pace throughout all the stanzas. The idea really appeals to me too; I like to get away sometimes, even if I’m only going out of my mind for a while so I can come to my senses.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, you are a lady after my own heart. My mind often embarks on its own journeys to strange and magnificent places where women exist and are known as mothers and not “birthing persons”; where boys can try on Mom’s high heels without being castrated, where porn doesn’t litter the school libraries, and drag queens remain in adult night clubs… and then I return to the “new normal” – with reluctance. Thank you very much for your inspirational comment… I feel a new poem coming on!

      Reply
  7. Joshua C. Frank

    Susan, these are great, all of them! They all express very well exactly how I feel in this modern world, but it’s the first one that really speaks to me. I also have nights where I can’t fall asleep because I’m upset about the way the modern world is. I love that you say “women are extinct”… it’s nice to hear a woman saying this, to hear that thinking this isn’t just some kind of male chauvinism or what have you. Also, I love how in each stanza, lines 1 and 6 are the same, and repeated in the next one in line 5, and then 2 through 4 rhyme. Someday I’d like to try that form myself.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Josh, thank you very much for your comment. I’m glad you liked the poems and especially thrilled that the first one spoke to you. I think many of us are feeling this way at present… restless, worried, not knowing what’s around the corner, bothered about making plans. I also think it helps to know we’re not alone in feeling this. Today’s world can be so isolating… intentional, I’m certain. It’s easier for a draconian government to control the masses if they feel alone. As for the mention of extinct women, Josh, never stop speaking out. Everyone is accused of every ‘ism’ going in today’s warped world, the main one being racism. Let’s stamp out the ‘ism’ accusation with poetry… let’s turn our angst into fun.

      Reply
  8. Alena Casey

    Your use of alliteration, especially in lines like “When sunless souls stroll starless nights, ” and “They conjured realms of wonder in the wild— / That world of witch and warlock in the shade,” is just one more feature making these poems so fine!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Alena, I really appreciate your kind comment. I love the music of language, and, for me, alliteration lifts mundane lines into mellifluous realms that make poetry a pleasure to read aloud. I always revel in reading a poem that’s lyrical… I love the oral and aural pleasure of words. Thank you!

      Reply
      • Alena Casey

        Indeed–lyrical poems are my favorite as well. Language can do so many interesting things; one of the joys I’ve found as I grow as a poet is exploring all of those possibilities.

  9. Cynthia Erlandson

    There is so much I love about these poems, Susan; so, I’ll just mention a few. I love your extreme gifts for internal rhyme and alliteration, which seem to be omnipresent in your writing. They are especially evident in “Awake”, which is my favorite of these: mull/muse/moon/mourn, for just one example of alliteration. (And I love the way you used “moon” as a verb because, among the clouds, planets and stars, it comes across as meaningful both as verb and astronomical noun.) In “Fly Me to the Moon”, “When sunless souls stroll starless nights” is marvelous.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Cynthia, the beauty of having poetry published on this marvelous site is the feedback and appreciation from fellow poets who know the painstaking craft of poetry. Such comments make me glow… it’s always great to know a reader likes the poem, but appreciation for the intricacies is truly inspiring. Your ‘moon’ observation has me grinning. I’m thrilled you enjoyed my alliteration fest… I simply can’t help myself! Cynthia – thank you!

      Reply
  10. Shaun C. Duncan

    The repeated A rhymes and repetition of lines in “Awake” are extremely effective in conveying the sickly delerium which comes with an insomnia born of an overactive mind. It’s a very impressive piece. I like the contrast of “Fly Me To The Moon” which seems straight as an arrow by comparison.

    “Fossil” is a beautiful sonnet. I can only echo what Michael has said above. I’m not a boomer either but as a parent to young children I find it sad how small the world has become for them. It doesn’t just come from overbearing parents, either. My wife and I encourage our kids to be adventurous but there seems to be a generalised sense of anxiety in the air these days which they pick up on. We don’t watch TV and have very little engagement with media or popular culture and yet our kids see the world as a more dangerous place than we ever did.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Shaun, I really appreciate your fine eye and I’m over the moon you enjoyed the poems – all very different in the presentation but drawing on the same theme. They’re a sort of present-future-past look at a world in trouble.

      I think parents’ concerns for their children are very valid today. When schools push identity politics and porn, the world has lost its way. These sick ideologies have removed trust… we view all the once revered figures in society with suspicion. The innocence of a child’s imagination is no longer celebrated. It’s preyed upon by perverts. The good news is we are waking up to this. Let’s hope we can alert others, turn things around, and get those carefree days of play back for our future generations. With much gratitude for your support.

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, James! You are right – extinct women spells hell for a man, just as emasculated men are hell for women. The wonders of femininity and masculinity need promoting… those who don’t know the difference between an X and Y chromosome are missing out horribly! 😉

      Reply
  11. Paul Freeman

    ‘Fossil’ really resonates. It describes exactly the care-free summer holidays of yore, down the park (with it’s oak copse), inventing some kind of long-forgotten game, and coming home at the leisure of a grumbling, rumbling stomach.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Paul, I’m glad “Fossil” brought back those beautiful memories of childhood freedoms… a rare thing these days. Thank you.

      Reply
  12. Sally Cook

    Dear Susan —
    I knew you were off on an adventure, and this is exactly where I hoped you would go. You have added another octave to your voice. Beautiful !

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sally, you have made my day… I’m basking in the glory of that extra octave. I know you have a fine eye and ear when it comes to poetry – I’m thrilled you enjoyed these. Thank you very much indeed!

      Reply
  13. Roy E. Peterson

    All three beautifully crafted poems send messages that to me are unmistakable about a world we once knew that has been stolen from our children. We lie “Awake” contemplating these immensely troubling thoughts, “Fly Me to the Moon” in an attempt to free our minds and realize we have joined the “boomer dinosaurs.” Great poems indeed.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Roy, I love your comment and how you link the poems together. Thank you! I think joining the feisty gang of boomer dinosaurs is where it’s at! Thank you for your support.

      Reply
  14. Margaret Coats

    Susan, all of these are excellent, as others have said, and I know you will excuse me for speaking only of the form of “Awake.” Especially because Joshua Frank above says he might want to use it, I’ll give a description. Here’s the five-stanza rhyme scheme:

    A1 bbb A2 A1
    A3 ccc A1 A3
    A4 ddd A3 A4
    A5 eee A4 A5
    A6 fff A2 A6

    Those numbers really should be superscripts to indicate that there are six refrains (capital letter A shows repeated lines) that all use the same rhyme sound. And there are six rhyme sounds, since I have to use letters “a” to “f” to put them in the rhyme scheme. Moreover, you have chosen as rhyme sounds the six vowels we have in English, if we include “y.”

    A rhyme sound is short e
    b rhyme sound is long o
    c rhyme sound is long i
    d rhyme sound is long u
    e rhyme sound is short a
    f rhyme sound is long y

    And with six lines per stanza, this is a 6666 poem (six refrains, six rhyme sounds that use the six English vowels, six-line stanzas). We all know about 666, but I will let you say what you mean by this!

    In any case, this seems to be a nonce form (one for this particular occasion) rather than one invented with the hope that it will be used again. And it is a round form, with the “paradise lost” refrain coming back at the end. Round forms come in a bewildering variety, and I classify them by how many refrains they have. Leaving out pantoums and virelays where the number of refrains can increase indefinitely with the length of the poem, I’ve never seen a poem written in a six-refrain form. Triolets have two refrains, rondels have two or three, the rondeau redoubled has four. I’ve seen a single five-refrain poem in French. I would suggest that any would-be imitator start with simpler refrain forms before he goes on to imitate this one, or to create a nonce form of his own!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Margaret, thank you so very much for laying out my form clearly, concisely, eruditely, and insightfully. I honestly couldn’t have done better myself and I am most grateful for your expert eye, as I am certain Joshua is.

      You are right when you say it’s a nonce form. You are also right when you say I only wanted to use it for this occasion. As you know, I love lyric forms. None of them seemed appropriate for what I had in mind, so I invented my own. It’s at this stage I am going to admit something which may horrify you. I do not have a scientific or mathematical brain when it comes to poetry writing. I am full of sound and fury signifying nothing. I have analyzed many works of literature, but I never have a definite plan for my own. I had a vague idea, and this poem sort of wrote itself. The words appeared on the page at breakneck speed. I tweaked and added repeating lines until I was satisfied… this took longer than the original outpouring… much longer. I repeated the first stanza’s ‘paradise lost’ in the closing stanza to enforce my mad and melancholic message. As for 666 – the beast is on the loose and this poem has him pegged.

      Margaret, you are an absolute gem on this wonderful site, and I cannot thank you enough for making my nonce form shine much brighter than it deserves.

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        Susan, if you didn’t know what you were doing with the rhyme sound vowels, there is some linguist spirit hovering around you. If you want to see what a poet can do with explicit attention to vowels, take a look at “Pentatina for Five Vowels” by Campbell McGrath. It’s easy to find at Poetry Magazine. I noticed when I first read the poem that it was published in 2012 when the poet was 50 years old. Now that he’s 60, I wonder if what he’s doing with sixes.

    • Mike Bryant

      Margaret, your analysis of ‘Awake’ is incredible. You must know that as Susan writes I am a kind of sounding board. I heard this poem in many iterations and never noticed the five different vowel sounds of the middle rhymes. I also did not notice that the rhymes of lines 1, 5 and 6 made a total of six different vowel sounds!
      Your careful reading and evaluation of the intricacies of poetry is invaluable. Like Susan, I am amazed at your attention to detail and the knowledge that you bring to every comment. Wow!
      However, maybe it’s a bit of divine providence that there weren’t SIX verses. As six is a bit short of divine perfection, perhaps the fact that the spirit led to only FIVE verses means that the muse was just short of perdition! LOL
      And Susan… have I ever told you that you write like a dream?

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        Mike, that’s funny about five being short of perdition! But if Susan had gone on to six stanzas, she would have needed a seventh refrain, and that would have put everything at sixes and sevens!

      • Mike Bryant

        And then with only two more stanzas the poem would have been dressed to the nines!

  15. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, you have done it again. I will be reading these all weekend as I am dumbstruck by your use of alliteration. “Till rats run with with a fat-cat technocrat” is pure genius from “Awake” and we will be booking two rocket seats to the moon, quite soon, as we fly a dragon through the bluebell glade. Our news over here is quite gloomy at the moment but you have lifted my depression with these three. Thank you so much from two boomer dinosaurs.

    Reply

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