.

Lessons in Love 

inspired by William George Falconer (1922 – 2006)

I. The First

The photo flew from Grandad’s falling wallet.
It fluttered to the floor within my reach.
I picked it up and saw the writing on it—
Summer ’64 at Brighton Beach.
I gazed at Gran—a siren of the ocean—
Her skirt hitched up, surf lapping at her thighs,
A skittish grin with saucy notions frozen
In tantalizing, sea-and-sunshine eyes.
My tender heart had plenty left to learn.
The man who snapped the picture taught me well.
He told me Gran’s bold beauty made him burn
To dance with her till frost froze flames of Hell.
I knew that day the value of our chat.
I knew that night I’d pray for love like that.

.

II. The Last

His feisty spirit hid in wizened skin
That stretched across each worn and weary bone.
I saw his grief—that wretched wince within
His wistful eyes. He choked down every groan.
I held my grandad’s gnarly hands in mine—
Hands that fought a war and built a life
With she who made the bleakest moments shine –
My grandmother, his gone and longed-for wife.
He told me, when the stars were in his reach
And always silvered sprawling golden sand,
He’d meet his foxy sweetheart on the beach.
They’d waltz and kiss then walk home hand in hand.
He taught my smarting heart the marvel of
That death-defying miracle called Love.

.

.

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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52 Responses

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Tonia, I am so pleased you enjoyed these poems. Your lovely words are much appreciated.

      Reply
  1. g.KayeNaegele

    Very moving and beautiful Susan, the emotions rang through me as I read. Excellent sonnet form.

    Reply
  2. Norma Pain

    The photo of Brighton Beach drew misty memories for me, and your two beautiful poems on never-ending love, drew the tissues from the box. Thank you again for the effortless way you evoke various emotions. Brilliant!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Norma, heartfelt thanks to a fellow poet who gives me the gift of laughter… and I go and return the favor with tears. It heartens me to know my words drew misty memories… the seaside is a big part of British life, and just thinking of Brighton Beach, Broadstairs, Margate, Hastings, Bournemouth, Eastbourne etc. etc. conjures so many wonderful memories. I thoroughly appreciate your beautiful words.

      Reply
  3. David Etchell

    Terrific sonnets Susan — it has resonance for me having been there and swum off that deeply shelving pebbled beach. Also it reminds me of my younger wild days in the magical 60s.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Dave! A comment like this from a master sonneteer is a real compliment – one I thoroughly appreciate. I’m glad my words took you back to a magical era… as for the ‘wild’ part, when did you ever stop being wild? 🙂

      Reply
  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    Such poignant verbal portraits of your grandparents and their lives! You’ve said so very much in so few words. The first four lines of the second one are my favorites, though they made me feel like crying.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Cynthia, thank you for this. I find it really hard to write “poignant verbal portraits” (beautiful terminology), which makes your words all the dearer to me. My grandparents were a huge influence on my life. I have an awful lot to be grateful for… they really did teach me the meaning of true love.

      Reply
  5. C.B. Anderson

    I imagine, Susan, that it was a great relief for you to write about something that is essentially uplifting, rather than dwelling again on the darker sides of contemporary existence. Your skill, at this point, is so great that you never need to press the point; you only need to express things plainly. I sometimes wish I could make it look so easy. For God so loved this world that He gave certain persons the ability to express what is ordinarily considered ineffable.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      C.B., what a beautiful comment, one I will treasure. You are right, it is a great relief to write something that is essentially uplifting. My grandfather is a huge part of the reason I highlight the atrocities of our world… he fought to give the future generations a free voice, and I am fighting to hang on to his gift. Although I must say, poetry is an easier path than the one he battled along. I thoroughly appreciate your words. Thank you!

      Reply
  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    I was in Brighton only twice, and I recall that it seemed like a small-scale Coney Island, with many amusements and rides and young people larking on the beach. My friend and I paid two small English lads to bring us heavy wet sand from the surf’s edge so that we could construct a big sand castle (we gave them sixpence a pail, which motivated them work like beavers!) I think they got three quid off us.

    The sonnets make a fine pair. Together they depict a real love — one that “alters not when it alteration finds.”

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, I love your Brighton Beach story. It’s a long time since I larked around or spent a few quid on a British beach. Your mention of a sixpence reminds me of Christmas. My grandmother used to tuck silver sixpences in the Christmas pudding, douse it in booze, light it, slice it, serve it… and, if we were lucky, we uncovered some buried treasure… and thank you for that beautiful quote from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, a favorite of mine on the love front… a subject that is never that easy for me to put into words. I’m thrilled you liked the poems.

      Reply
  7. Brian Yapko

    Susan, this two-part poem (or is it two separate poems?) pleases me greatly, first and foremost because the message of love that your Grandad imparts through you is romantic, humane and just so honest in both lust and yearning and that indefinable something extra, those stars which silver the sprawling gold sand (btw, I love “silver” as a verb here.) Second, there is the beauty of the piece. There are only 28 lines between the two parts and there are probably that many memorable quotes. I’m particularly partial to the “sea-and-sunshine eyes” and then your grandfather’s “hands that fought a war and built a life.” But ultimately, I’m most entranced with that “death-defying miracle called Love” because you’ve captured its very nature. Superb work.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I’m thrilled you enjoyed these. I consider them a sonnet duo – a sonnet sequence for two sonnets … is there a term for this, I wonder? Would you believe I sweated the details of this one? Every word had to be placed in a way that it didn’t jar… I wanted the words to roll smoothly and beautifully… it’s so easy for love to turn to tragedy or comedy with one clumsy misplacement. It’s a pretty difficult subject for me to negotiate. That’s why I’m over the moon that the last line has struck the right chord. For me, that’s exactly what love is… it’s only taken me half a century to work it out. Brian, thank you very much indeed!

      Reply
  8. Russel Winick

    Susan – your relationship with your grandparents shines through almost overwhelmingly in these poems. Between a grandad who taught you what love is, and a grandmother who “made the bleakest moments shine” (what an incredible talent that must have been!), I think I’m starting to understand from whence your rare gifts originated.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Russel, thank you for this beautiful observation. In days where victimhood is worn as a badge of honor, no one mentions the overwhelming influence true love may have on young lives… my grandparents love lives on, and I will be forever grateful to them. In fact, I have just become a grandmother myself… my little granddaughter has arrived 100 years after her late great-great-grandmother, and she bears her name. What a great start in life!

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Ronald. I do, however, disagree with your observation. Love eternal is more appropriate.

      Reply
  9. Joshua C. Frank

    Susan, these are wonderful sonnets about your grandparents! These really capture how blessed you were to have them in your life.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Josh, thank you very much for your kind comment. And yes, I have been very blessed indeed.

      Reply
  10. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, the perfect antidote to the Harry/Meghan snooze-fest that I have just switched off in disgust, only to be reduced to tears by these. Thank you for a heart-warming memory of that lost generation who gave so much.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, my grandparents would have been appalled to see the lines of royal dirty laundry billowing above Buckingham Palace. I’m glad they got to experience a world that shone a little brighter than today’s… a world they helped to build. Jeff, thank you!!

      Reply
  11. Michael Pietrack

    sea-and-sunshine eyes

    Hands that fought a war and built a life

    Were my favorite lines. Beautiful stuff, SJB.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Aww, thank you, Michael. My grandmother was blessed with sea-and-sunshine eyes and a contagious joy that I can still feel even though she’s died. That’s what true love does for you. In spite of the world’s woes, it still exists. 🙂

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Paul. I had trouble defining these two poems. “A duo of sonnets” – that’s what I was looking for.

      Reply
  12. Satyananda Sarangi

    Susan ma’am!

    Two beautiful poems overflowing with love and the sheer delight of having witnessed that love.
    These reminded me of another great poem – ‘Love me Little, Love me Long’.

    Best wishes.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Satyananda, thank you very much. I have just read the poem mine reminds you of, and I have thoroughly appreciated the journey. Thanks again.

      Reply
  13. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Susan, this recalled in my mind the movie, “The Summer of ”42,” which was a coming-of-age story. That you have discerned the romantic times of your grandparents must have given you a feeling beyond compare and filled your heart with the beauty of their love. As always, your use of alliteration titillates my senses and I have to repeat them and taste them as I say them out loud to nobody but me.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Roy, thank you for your beautiful comment… my grandparents’ love still flourishes in my heart, and writing this poem was pretty tough but rewarding… I wanted to capture the wonder without getting over-sentimental because I’m standing too close. These comments tell me I did okay, and that thrills me. You have stirred my interest in the film you mention… in fact, I have it lined up to watch tonight. Thanks again, Roy… I thoroughly appreciate your comment.

      Reply
  14. Yael

    Nice! I love your love poems Susan. I love how you layered the past time of your grand parents’ love during their younger years, the latter time of your aged grandpa’s grief over the loss of his love, and the timeless and ageless theme of love itself. Great job, as usual.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, it’s always lovely to receive a comment from your good self, and this one has me smiling from head to foot and inside out. You have seen exactly what I was trying to convey, and you’ve explained it perfectly… just like you always do. Thank you very much indeed for your wondrous words.

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      David, thank you for your kind words, they’re very much appreciated.

      Reply
  15. N. Hani

    Came on this site for the first time today after reading Keats. Never heard of this woman before and on reading this poem, picked up themes which could be related to and had structure. However, on reading comments made by this author on another thread, one becomes aware that the sense of humanity in this person must be very shallow, narrow and superficial, as it only extends to the familiar and known, yet ignorant at a universal level. Disappointing and will never compare to the greats.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      So good to know that a deity has looked in on our site… this absolutely all-knowing individual has stooped so low to offer us this revelation!

      Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Dear N. Hani —

      Were you born a pompous ass, or did you take an advanced degree in asininity?

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      I’ve picked up a couple of wonderful phrases since moving to Texas. As soon as I read your comment, the most fitting one sprung to mind: N. Hani, bless your heart!

      Reply
  16. Yael

    This is what I love so much about this poetry website: the poetry is enhanced across multiple dimensions by the additional inputs of the carefully chosen illustration at the top of the page, as well as the wildly amusing and often very educational comments section. Thank you all, and I wish everyone a Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, your lovely words of appreciation are echoed by me, and I would also like to say your comments are encouraging, inspirational, and always a pleasure to read… and when we have the privilege of hearing you sing a poem, it’s an absolute treat. Never stop spreading your sunshine in this murky world! Wishing you a beautiful Christmas and a wonderful, poetry-filled 2023!

      Reply
  17. James Sale

    Wonderful and moving poems, Susan – really first-rate. But while I am here, I think I should record for Joe’s sake that Brighton is now the Woke capital of England and indeed has the only ‘Green’ party member for Parliament in the country. So being there in 1964 was possibly the optimum moment between the Pinky of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock and the Green and desperate now!

    Reply

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