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Ode to Winter

A honeypool of sun seeps from the skies.
The crisp and clingy leaves have lost their grip.
__My scarlet spirits dip
As gold and russet highs bid cold goodbyes.
I feel your icy bite in twilight’s breeze—
__Your stinging chill;
Your silver nip; your hoary, moon-licked tease
That bends the naked branches to your will.

You suck the thrumming blood from Gaia’s veins,
Then frost her plump and sumptuous autumn spill—
__That juicy-berry fill
For scrawny critters scouring country lanes.
You scythe through field and fen through thick of night.
__A rush of breath
Drifts from your lips to fog the spangled light
Where reapers creep and mortals peek at death.

Your presence comes with promise to excite
With dreamy scenes of lacy flakes of snow.
__You leave blue souls aglow
With memories of Christmases of white—
Your shining shawl of glory swathing earth
__As sleigh bells ring.
I know your rage and grace. I know your worth.
I know your savage splendor gift-wraps Spring.

.

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My Winter Gift  

My winter comes to kiss my hair with frost,
To cool the glare of autumn’s crimson flare,
To dance me over bridges not yet crossed,
To dazzle days with time to stop and stare
At miracles ablaze with summer’s grin
(That sunburst-beam that melts the fiercest ice).
My winter blesses senses as they swim
In swirls of myrrh and spices that entice
Songs of snowmen, stars, and Bethlehem.
I gaze upon my granddaughter with awe—
An unfurled newborn ready to begin
A journey that is rapturous and raw…
My winter brings a golden glimpse of spring—
The scintillating reason grandmas sing!

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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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34 Responses

  1. Jeff Kemper

    You could almost sing to glorify winter. Almost, for the glory of winter is it’s end, hence:
    “I know your savage splendor gift-wraps Spring.”
    and,
    “My winter brings a golden glimpse of spring—
    The scintillating reason grandmas sing!”

    Very nice work as always!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, it’s always lovely to hear from you and I thoroughly appreciate your encouraging and beautiful comment – a comment that has my heart soaring and singing. Thank you!

      Reply
  2. Norma Pain

    Beautiful poems Susan and a beautiful picture from Evan. Thank you. Your two wonderfully descriptive, wintry poems almost make me imagine that I like snow!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Norma, thank you very much. Evan’s choice of picture is perfect… I think it depicts that honeypool of sun seeping from the sky, beautifully. I used to miss snow here in Texas… until I came to appreciate the wonder of warm winters.

      Reply
  3. C.B. Anderson

    These are two of the finest lyric poems I have yet read, but I think that you must be going on memories of England rather than the climate you are living in now. I mean, what exactly does a bitter-cold day look and feel like in southeast Texas? As always, your crisp diction, your apposite images and your knack for fitting form to function have owned the day.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      C.B., I am basking in the euphoria of your praise… when I hear words like that from you, I know I’ve arrived! Thank you!

      I will admit to drawing on memories of chill winters to write this… memories that are etched permanently and bring with them vivid scenes of teeth-chattering splendor. We do have bitter cold days in Texas, but they’re so few and far between people go into shock when they are forecast. People bundle up as if they’re at the North Pole if the temperature drops below 72 degrees Fahrenheit… if it drops below 60, they don’t even venture out.

      Reply
  4. jd

    Lovely poems, both. In the 2nd I love the juxtaposition to being grandmother, which, as you write, is the gift hinted at from the beginning.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      jd, thank you very much. My winter years are feeling a lot less wintry than I thought they would. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Jack DesBois

    Your Ode to Winter reminded me of Richard Adams’s insightful observation in “Watership Down”: “Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it.” Your poem focuses on the harsh reality of winter but hints in the last stanza at the delightful fantasy of winter — the combination of the two makes a season well worth honoring in poetry.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jack, thank you for this… what an apt quote from Watership Down, one I definitely agree with. The fantasy and reality of the season are worlds apart… brought closer by a log fire and the cozy comfort of viewing it from the window. I was aiming for the savage wildness and the warm wonder of the season, and I thoroughly enjoyed honoring this time of year.

      Reply
  6. Brian Yapko

    Wow, Susan, these are two splendid poems, each quite different in tone, but with winter as a point of intersection. Your Ode to Winter is a tour de force of contrasting images in which a personified Winter is the scythe-brandishing bringer of death who yet who offers lovely white Christmases and the promise to excite. Your Winter displays a real split personality: Rage and grace, savage splendor. Your present Winter as something (or someone) terrible and wonderful. There are no shades of gray, there is no room here for anything mundane and I absolutely love it. I’m also intrigued by the form you have chosen which I’m guessing is original. abbacdcd rhymes, 5-5-3-5-5-3-5-5 feet per line. It works well with that subtle sense of an echo and an off-balance lack of predictability which suits the subject well.

    The sonnet does not feel as spontaneous as Winter but is deeper and more personal. Although it touches on the death of Autumn and the cold of winter (evocative of the Ode), the Gift very rapidly moves forward into religious territory (miracles and blessings, myrrh, Bethlehem) and from there we get to the most personal of God’s gifts to you: a sweet newborn grandchild — a source of awe indeed. What a wonderful gift you have received and what a wonderful gift you have shared with your readers through this poem! It is lovely and heart-warming through and through. Thank you, Susan, for this reminder of the beauty and promise of life even in the bleak of winter. And congratulations on the birth of your granddaughter!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, thank you very much for your perspicacious and generous comment, and thank you too for your congratulations. I am over the moon to be a grandmother – I have feelings I had not prepared for, but I promise I won’t inflict them on the SCP readers in self-absorbed sonnet… please don’t say, it’s too late for that! 😉

      The form was inspired by a recently discovered poet, Richard Wilbur. C.B. mentioned him in a comment and I am thoroughly intrigued by his works. I wish I could say I created this form… I didn’t. I stole it from the wonderful Mr. Wilbur. I love the intrigue of the seemingly off-beat meter, which happens to be very disciplined. I feel it gives the poem an air of unpredictability and mystery… much like the nature of winter. Brian, I’m thrilled you’ve enjoyed my winter wanderings.

      Reply
  7. g.KayeNaegele

    These are beautiful, technically, poetically thrilling to read. The metaphors sing with possibility, the imagery brilliant, the form a perfect invention (?) of rhyme and rhythm that gives such flavor to the scene which powerfully makes the reader feel the entire environment and personal perceptions. A true work of art Susan. The same holds true for “My Winter Gift”, the metaphors and imagery are again profound and poetic. Congratulations on your “gift”. And thank you for the gifts of your art.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for your astute, inspirational, and beautiful comment, and thank you too for your congratulations… it really is a gift to be a grandmother. I’ve mentioned the form in my comment to Brian above… I wish I could claim credit for it, but I used to enhance my winter creation and I’m thrilled it paid off.

      Reply
  8. Joseph S. Salemi

    Two excellent poems, Susan. It’s hard to add anything to what the previous commenters have mentioned, but let me echo what Jack DesBois wrote: what we really like about winter is the way in which we can wrap ourselves up snugly against it, and have hearty hot meals with mulled wine and strong punch.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Joe. Hearty hot meals with mulled wine and strong punch sounds heavenly… we’ll be doing just that in shorts and a tee shirt in the snowless backyard beneath the melting sun here in Texas… it used to feel surreal, but now it’s my new normal.

      Reply
  9. Joshua C. Frank

    Susan, two more great ones! I especially love the second one and how it ties the winter to the birth of your granddaughter.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Josh. I thoroughly enjoyed writing ‘My Winter Gift’… I’ll enjoy my winter years watching my granddaughter blossom. I’m smiling at the thought.

      Reply
  10. James Sale

    Naturally, wonderful work, Susan, but I do have one small problem with your Winter Ode: you make winter sound positively orgasmic, its ‘moon-licked tease’ and everything else! Were you ever really English? And now I am to believe that you are some insignificant church warden clearing out rat droppings from the belfry? Heck, Kim Kardashian has nothing on your sensuality!!! Lucky old Mike!!!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      James, whenever I draw on distant memories of winter, I go into a dreamlike state of nostalgia. My musings filter out all the harsh realities to focus on the wonder of winter… hence my poem. I must say the rest of your comment has me laughing… as I am now the face that meets and greets both breathing and non-breathing guests at the local funeral home… I had better quit giggling and get my Morticia face back on… quick! Thank you very much for my extra bit of afternoon sunshine.

      Reply
  11. Sally Cook

    Dear Susan –
    I’m sure you are aware of my love affair with the moon. And now I see he’s been sneaking out to see you on the side ! Doesn’t the world always seem larger when there are no leaves to hide it? What a lovely, crystalline memory you have painted for us.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dear Sally, thank you very much for your poetic observation… it’s beautiful! I am aware of your love affair with the moon, and I’m thrilled you approve of my flirtation with Luna’s lusciousness.

      Reply
  12. Paul Freeman

    ‘…your savage splendor gift-wraps Spring.’ That’s my fave line.

    Some fine imagery and nostalgia in ‘Ode to Winter’. And the whole metaphor thing going on in ‘My Winter Gift’ is inspired.

    Thanks for the reads, Susan.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      You are very welcome, Paul. I thoroughly enjoyed writing these and I’m glad it reached out to you.

      Reply
  13. Joseph S. Salemi

    About Susan Bryant being English — it occurs to me that a great deal of what we in the northern hemisphere think about winter (and Christmas) has its roots in specifically English traditions. The expected cold weather and snowfall, the Yule log, plum puddings, hot punch, mistletoe, sleighs, blazing fireplaces, pealing churchbells, the many carols, intense festivity (and even the expression “Merry Christmas!” itself) all bring us back to England. Dickens’ unforgettable tale of Scrooge in Victorian London has reinforced these Anglophilic associations with its retelling every Christmas season.

    Ever since childhood, I have had to watch the film of “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol” (starring Alastair Sim, Mervyn Johns, and Patrick MacNee) every single holiday season. The film is as intensely English as a pint of porter and steak-and-kidney pie. Sometimes the sheer, elegant purity of the spoken English in the film moves me as much as the tale itself.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, this is a beautiful comment that has tears pricking my eyes. Your words have swept me up and carried me across the ocean to a winter wonderland permanently etched on my heart. I share the same adoration for “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol”. Steak-and-kidney pudding was a craving of mine when I was pregnant with my son. My mother and grandmother made the best ever!! Thank you for stoking all those treasured memories… and for determining my Christmas Day menu.

      Reply
  14. Shaun C. Duncan

    Your “Ode To Winter” is absolutely stunning, Susan – every line is a delight and the form, the language and the imagery work beautifully together to create a poem which is a joy to read.

    The second piece, while maybe more subdued stylistically, is more touching in that it links the seemingly linear finality of our personal existence to the greater cycles of life, death and rebirth. It’s a profound perspective which I’ve seen in my mother as I watch her play with my own children and something too many of my proud, “child-free” peers are sadly going to miss out on.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Shaun, thank you very much for your careful reading and appreciation of my poetry. It saddens me to think that many of your “child-free” peers are going to miss out on the miracle of parenthood… a humbling experience that puts us and our lives into perspective. I believe every generation has a lesson to teach us and to be blessed with a close family is the greatest of God’s gifts… a gift that is sadly frowned upon… a gift that the world would benefit from in these increasingly dark days.

      Reply
  15. Margaret Coats

    Susan, this is the loveliest birth announcement I’ve seen! You made it with a special need (as grandmother) to be indirect and humble in your joy, but also (as poet) to make it stand out as unique among your many other works of art. Let me join the other commentors and add my congratulations to you as poet and grandmother, as well as to the baby’s father and mother.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Margaret, thank you very, very much – for your congratulations and your beautiful and astute interpretation of my poem. Your words mean a lot to me!

      Reply
  16. Alena Casey

    Wow. These poems are as breathtaking as winter herself. I love the way you give us perfect images in just a couple of words paired together. But I think my favorite line is this: “Your shining shawl of glory swathing earth.” A nod at the common image of snow as a blanket, but uniquely vivid. Then, your second poem has so much depth to it, I’ll have to read it over and over. Congratulations on the birth of your granddaughter!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Alena, thank you for your beautiful observations. I am so glad you enjoyed the poems, especially the second one… being a first-time grandmother for a mere five weeks has done something to my heart, mind, and poetry… something rather special, I think. There’s nothing like the miracle of a newborn baby to put this insane world into perspective. Thank you very much for your congratulations!

      Reply
      • Alena Casey

        I read your comment in the middle of the night as I cuddle and nurse my fourth child, and I most heartily agree: there is nothing like this precious miracle! I look forward to seeing more of your poetic contemplations.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Aww, cherish every beautiful moment with your precious miracle, Alena. These glorious moments are golden gifts that shine in the heart forever… something tells me you already know this. 🙂

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