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Reckoning

Will darkness drop again so we may know
The thrill and chill of winter blowing, storming,
And will we feel death’s icy undertow
As husks of hell begin their frantic swarming?

Will manna rot or will it fall unleavened
When Hades’ depths start rumbling and yawning?
When skies above are swirling blood and ebon
Will we anticipate the terror dawning?

Shall we cry and try to flee damnation
Or pray to every saint and painted idol
In sackcloth as we kneel in near starvation
While kings grow power mad and homicidal?

Will stones of statehood then be ripped asunder?
Will heaven open up to show the Light?
Will weapons fall as legions drop in wonder
As God returns to set the world aright?

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Mike Bryant is a poet and retired plumber living on the Gulf Coast of Texas.


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34 Responses

  1. Martin Rizley

    There’s a lot of really riveting imagery in this poem, Mike– and just enough verbal clues to shed light on what I believe is the intended meaning of the poem. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that you are musing on the dreaded possibility of nuclear war being unleashed on the world and how it would take people unprepared for the terror and death that follows.

    Some of the clues that lead me to that conclusion are the following:
    1) the reference to darkness dropping “again” suggests prior episode/s of darkness dropping– as, for example, in terms of earlier World Wars or the attack on Hiroshima.
    2) the reference to “the thrill and chill of winter blowing, storming” makes me think of the phenomena of “nuclear winter” associated with a nuclear holocaust.
    3) “Husks of hell. . .swarming” could well be a poetic description of bombs dropping from the sky.
    4) the continual reference to the sky (e.g., “skies above swirling blood and ebon”, and the terror that produces, again seems to evoke the images of nuclear war.
    4) and could one not help but think of Putin with the phrase “kings growing power mad and homicidal” in light of the threats he has made of launching nuclear missiles?
    5) “Stones of statehood ” being “ripped asunder” and “weapons falling” speak of the total dissolution of the present political order.

    You have obviously chosen carefully every word, and the result is a gripping picture of a truly apocalyptic disaster to which only direct divine intervention can put to an end. Very well done!

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Martin, thanks for your amazing look into my scribblings. I started writing this poem a few years ago but just left it in my notes. The questions were all there but they needed to be tightened up and added to. Thanks for your great stab at answering them.

      Reply
  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    This is a profoundly apocalyptic poem, making use of both secular and religious imagery and references. The darkness dropping and winter blowing and storming could be taken as allusions to some natural meteorological catastrophe, but “the husks of hell… swarming” suggest something otherworldly, ghostly, and demonic (could they be locusts, or the living dead?) The mentions of manna and Hades are specifically religious, as are the skies “swirling blood and ebon,” which seems right out of John’s Book of Revelations. The mentions of damnation, saints, idols, and sackcloth reinforce the spiritual atmosphere.

    But then the poem speaks of kings going power mad and homicidal, and states being ripped asunder, which could be taken as simply secular political chaos. Yet the poem concludes with a question that is partially desperate, and partially hopeful, but also inescapably religious: Will God intervene?

    The central unspoken assertion of this poem is that the current secular plague of political and ideological insanity that afflicts the world cannot be understood apart from religious discourse. But by making the whole poem a series of unanswered questions, Mike Bryant leaves the matter open for debate. That is a shrewd move poetically, and is exactly what Yeats did at the end of his poem “The Second Coming.”

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Joe, everything you said was going on in my mind as I wrote this list of questions… plus more. You might as well know that Susan helped me focus this and suggested that I leave it open.
      Every comment here will shape my next apocalyptic vision. Thanks.

      Reply
  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    “Reckoning” is a perfect series of questions for those of us familiar with Biblical prophecy related to the second coming! What a great way to depict the potential possibilities with descriptive musings that are fitting and logical! The world certainly will be in chaos with the apocalypse! The only question left for the redeemed is how and when. We will see the signs, but as we are told, the exact day and time are in God’s hands. Great accomplishment!

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thanks Roy, I wonder, going back to Martin’s comment, if a nuclear conflagration could occur BEFORE the apocalypse.
      Perhaps the world will end in fire.

      Reply
      • Roy Eugene Peterson

        My uncle, who was a Southern Baptist preacher in Texas, once mentioned in a sermon in the late 1950’s that helicopters would look like locusts to the prophet of the times. That always stuck in my mind.

      • Mike Bryant

        A powerful image… I have a feeling you’ve seen those helicopters swarming… given your background of service!

  4. Jeff Eardley

    Mike, this is a most enjoyable and disturbing work. Thank you for a salutary reminder of what could be. Let’s hope not.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thanks Jeff, don’t get too disturbed, let’s just pray that the Lord continues to bless us and hold us in his bosom.

      Reply
  5. Norma Pain

    Mike, your poem talks about what a lot of us are perhaps thinking about. It is chilling to read but needed. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thank you, Norma. I’m sure we’re not meant to obsess about the end of everything. We just need to keep speaking up and using our voice for the things that matter. It’s great to have a place where we can be heard.

      Reply
  6. Brian A Yapko

    I love the dark depth and breadth of this poem, Mike, as it poses challenging question after question none of which offer comfortable alternatives as we are progressively shown to be facing Armageddon. Hell is yawning open. Whether we pray to the saints or the painted idols, it seems incontrovertible that the end is near and that only God’s intervention is possible or can matter. God “setting the world aright” is an understatement for what your poem sets up as the apocalypse to come. Ever see The Shawshank Redemption? “His judgment cometh and that right soon.”

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thanks Brian, yes, “His judgement cometh…” but before it cometh, we must also discern (is that another word for judgement?) what our own paths will be. I think we here at SCP have found a pretty darn good place to be. Everyone here contributes so much. We’re taking over!

      Reply
  7. David Paul Behrens

    This is an outstanding poem, Mike.

    Regarding the last line, “As God returns to set the world aright,” I personally don’t think God ever left, unless one is referring to the death of Jesus, whose body died, but whose spirit is eternal. The life and death of the body of Jesus symbolizes being human here on Earth. We are born into a body which will eventually die. His crucifixion symbolizes the suffering of mankind.

    One could ask the question though, of what is God waiting for if the world needs to be set aright? It is beyond our comprehension. God works in mysterious ways. (At least, ever since humans invented the word “mystery.”)

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thanks, David. I always love your takes. You’re right. We can’t know God’s thoughts any more than an ant can know ours. That’s where faith comes in, I guess.

      Reply
  8. Yael

    What a lovely poem for the end of the world as we know it, good job! I’m sure people in Ohio can relate to it especially well right about now. I like how “painted idols” loosely rhymes with “homicidal”. I did a double-take on that quatrain because it caught me by surprise. If I were to answer the questions which are asked in the poem, I would say “Yes, probably, looks highly likely from where I’m sitting, and more also”.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thank you Yael. I, of course, decided to make this light, little lyric lovely because it seemed to me that things were getting too gloomy around here! I am glad to see that it cheered you up! I know we are smiling down here in Texas. I hope you aren’t downstream from East Palestine.
      The questions might all be yeses… I’ll have to see what everyone else thinks before I decide. This might be a pass/fail test. LOL

      Reply
  9. James A. Tweedie

    Mike, I tell people that John’s Book of Revelations is one of my favorites. When I am asked why? I say that I like it because it has a happy ending. But between now and then, of course, we should not be surprised if things go from bad to worse.

    Your questions lay out God’s plot line using graphic apocalyptic/symbolic imagery (well-explicated by Dr. S) in ways that paint a dark, terrifying, yet ultimately hopeful picture of “the great and terrible Day of the Lord.”

    This may well be your finest poetic effort to date.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thanks, James. Someone once told me the Bible was disappointing because the hero died in the end. How wrong he was! I have the perfect comeback now, with your wonderful observation. It’s almost like a Clint Eastwood movie… that hero is a’ridin’ back into town and folks better hope they’re on His side!

      Reply
  10. James Sale

    Like it Mike – very skilfully done and excellent build-up. Eschatology is not a popular topic these days, which is a shame as we are heading ever closer to its denouement! Still, as with the days of Noah, most people are going to end up very surprised.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thank you, James. Sometimes these things seem to write themselves. Especially when you have someone like Susan to help you polish them off! …I mean UP!

      Reply
  11. Mark Stellinga

    Mike, this is an outstanding piece. The evidence pointing to what you prophecy here escalates daily, and the maniacs calling the shots are nothing less than ego-appeasing, bully children playing ‘soldier’…totally unconcerned – or blind – to how ALL such conflicts end. God help us.

    Reply
    • Jan

      If those spoiled, entitled bullies actually had to fight their wars, I believe they would try a little harder to avoid them. Instead, they just send the peasant children to die, or come back broken in body and mind, while they sit back and drool over their military industrial gains. They think their luxury bunker suites and armed guards will keep them safe.

      Reply
      • Mark Stellinga

        I expect you mean in the luxury bunker suites where they passionately exercise EDI, with an emphasis on ‘D’. Generals Austin & Millie have got to go! Have a great day and say Hi to Mrs. Bryant. 🙂

  12. Margaret Coats

    Mike, this is a fine apocalyptic poem from the questioning perspective. The other possible perspectives are despair and defiance. Desperate persons may be hopeless or dangerous–when they think they can guess how to avert or survive the calamity, and insist on the world following their program to do so. We see a lot of desperate apocalyptic thinking around us, don’t we? Proposals from that direction usually make matters worse quickly!

    Your poem, however, reminds me of a great work by the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell (1777-1844). I give his dates because they show that he lived during the time when uniformitarian geology became standard thinking, with its vast spans of time, and disbelief in any miraculous operations of God’s power (especially in Creation and the Flood). I think Campbell adopted the long ages in writing “The Last Man,” to express a defiant view of the theory in imagining how things could end. The conclusion has a tone similar to yours. The poem is much longer than yours, but Campbell’s artistry makes it easy and thrilling to read. I’m sure you’d like it!

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thank you, Margaret. I read Campbell’s poem. I think his vision is much darker than mine and, maybe, less scriptural. But you’re right. It didn’t take long to read it!

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        It’s definitely darker. He shows uniformitarians where they are going according to their own principle. But by outlining the poem’s time frame as Adam to The Last Man, he maintains scriptural chronology. And he defies godless thinkers by picturing that Last Man, enduring the darkest prospects of unbelievers, still as a man of faith and hope in God’s promises. You, on the other hand, look at potential horrors with trust in God to set things right before the worst happens!

  13. Joshua C. Frank

    Mike, this is great! You really should submit more poems.

    There isn’t really anything more I could say that all the others haven’t said, but I wanted to say it’s the perfect poem for its subject matter.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Thanks, Josh! I have a few of them out there in the SCP archives… you’re quite welcome to check them out.

      Reply
  14. Monika Cooper

    What this reminds me of, maybe most, is that amazing Johnny Cash song “When the Man Comes Around” — the same ominous excitement. “Everyone won’t be treated all the same.” Cash too asks some piercing questions.

    The very end reminds me of the very end of Dickinson’s poem about the “meek members of the Resurrection.” “Legions drop in wonder” has the feeling of “Diadems — drop — and Doges — surrender.” That word “drop” again. And you have it in the first and last line of your poem.

    Certainly the Reckoning is closer now than ever before. But I am hoping that in our day we will given to see that Light that will illumine our consciences and restore His reign on earth as King of kings. Either way, come Lord Jesus.

    Reply

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