Words of Wisdom 

“The only true wisdom is knowing 
you know nothing.” —Socrates

She knows the what. She knows the why.
__She knows the when and where.
Her tireless tongue will testify
__She knows the foul from fair—
A lofty boffin strutting tall,
This knowing crower knows it all.

He knows the how. He knows the who.
__He knows the this and that.
He has a noble, global view.
__He knows the earth’s not flat—
A hoity-toity oracle,
This knowing crower knows it all.

She knows what’s best. She knows the rest
__Of all there is to know.
She knows in every egghead test
__Her laser brain will show
Her nifty neurons never stall—
This knowing crower knows it all.

He knows the ins. He knows the outs.
__His cranium is crammed
With stacks of facts. He has no doubts
__That dunderheads are damned.
He never drops the bombast ball—
This knowing crower knows it all.

She knows the ups. She knows the downs.
__Her noodle’s thrice the size
Of cogs that crank in clueless clowns
__Who’ll never be as wise
As her—the belle of wisdom’s ball—
This knowing crower knows it all.

He knows his noggin’s hot to trot
__And blaze throughout the day.
He knows his upper story’s got
__An unsurpassed display
Of grand grey matter—wall to wall—
This knowing crower knows it all.

Alas, they’re not as right or bright
__As they would like to think.
A swollen-headed oversight
__Oft causes wits to shrink.
The bigger picture’s always small
For knowing crowers knowing all.

The key to smarts is more than sparks
__That spur the cerebellum.
The songs of hearts and meadowlarks
__Soar heaven-high to tell ‘em—
The only one who knows it all
Knows crowing comes before a fall.



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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22 Responses

  1. David Hollywood

    Dear Susan, This is great, and such a relief when encountering so much conceit that surrounds us so continually. Also, its so quirky I was smiling at its descriptively humorous put downs as I read and recall it, and which I am going to do again. Many thanks for such wit and creativity.

  2. Roy Eugene Peterson

    What a great classical poem meticulously crafted and full of those who are full of themselves. There are so many great phrases, words, and concepts woven into another one of your masterpieces with credit to Socrates and his note of wisdom, as apropos. I was fascinated by the “pronouned” persons who knew “what” or “whys,” and “this” or “thats.”

    • Roy Eugene Peterson

      I should add I was particularly taken with variants in your poem for intellect.

  3. Norma Pain

    Although I don’t know what I don’t know, I do know that I love your poetry Susan. Thank you for this very funny critique of obnoxious know-it-alls.

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    Susan, this is very funny and very timely. Everywhere one turns today one meets these arrogant, self-important schmucks who think that they are oracles of omniscience. Can’t we all hear them? TRUST THE SCIENCE! THAT’S DISINFORMATION! THOSE ARE NOT PROPER SOURCES! YOU’RE NOT AN EXPERT! HOW DARE YOU QUESTION A RECEIVED AUTHORITY!

    And yet when you talk to these people, they really don’t know anything but what they have read in the New York Times and other parish newsletters for the Church of Left-Liberalism.

    I love Susan’s use of the various pairs: what/why, when/where, how/who, this/that, ins/outs, ups/downs. This structures the poem nicely, along with the shift in pronouns from stanza to stanza – She… He for the first six, then the plural They for the seventh, and the final eighth stanza leaves open the identity of “the only one.” Is it God, as “heaven-high” suggests? Or is it any sane and sensible human being who is humble enough not to be arrogant?

  5. Paul Martin Freeman

    Susan, my sweetheart, you have excelled yourself. Pure unexampled brilliance!

    The way you sustain the thought through all the variations displays wonderful freedom and mastery of material and genre.

    I’m just so grateful this doesn’t apply to anyone at the SCP.

    Your lonely Warty is in awe.

    • Shamik Banerjee

      I’m always in awe after reading your witty pieces, Susan. This artfully crafted poem truly sums up the quote put above it. Also, I love your usage of internal rhymes and different words to describe the know-alls’ ‘heads’, thereby making it a delightful read.

  6. Cynthia Erlandson

    All of the above, plus admiration for your usual alliteration, internal rhyme, tell ’em/cerebellum rhyming, egghead tests, and all the rest! Thanks for the great laughs!

  7. Paul A. Freeman

    Alas, it seems to be human nature to know-it-all and know that other know-it-alls don’t know-it-all at all, which as we-all-know leads to much entertainment when two know-it-alls meet and share all-they-know.

    Nicely done, Susan.

  8. C.B. Anderson

    I am stunned by this foray into epistemology. It tickles the frontal lobe and unmasks the pretenders to false morality. It’s definitely one that I wish I had written. Overall, your poems always smack of integrity and impatience for dissimilation. Honest to God, I’d give both my thumbs for a small share of your good sense.

  9. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, your work just keeps getting better. This is a brilliant exposure of all those know-alls that annoy those of us who don’t know much at all. I will beware of hoity-toity oracles from now on. Absolutely superb to read today.

  10. Mark Stellinga

    Susan, too late to say it first (I overslept :-)), what a wonderful ‘smiler’ this is. So many of us look forward to your always meaningful offerings. Another bull’s eye! PS: I finally got an ad up for my most recent book of verse…wish me luck –

  11. James Sale

    Wonderful poetry Susan – the balance in the clauses and final release from having to acknowledge the know-it-all dunderheads is marvellously achieved. I do like the way you re-vitalise colloquialisms eg hoity-toity. Really great writing.

  12. Brian A. Yapko

    Susan, I love how this poem is structured — in doubles — prepositions and question words — the ins and outs, the whats and whys. It creates a delightful sing-songy quality which almost makes it Seussical. And this allows for a scathingly condescending putdown of those insufferable know-it-alls who like to mansplain, or libsplain or antifasplain the world to those of us who who are simply too caveman-dense to get it. You certainly prick their balloons, and you set things right as to the only authority who really knows anything. I especially love the phrasing of “crowing comes before a fall” which echoes Proverbs and, in association with your mention of heaven, makes it clear Who that authority is. Brava!

  13. Warren Bonham

    As always, you hit the nail on the head in a very artful way. I’m waiting for the fall of the “knowing crowers”. It can’t come fast enough.

  14. Mike Bryant

    Hey Guys and Gals, Susan is visiting her English family for the next couple of weeks and is very busy! She is having a blast and told me how much she appreciates y’all.
    She does have internet access, of course, and said that if she finds some extra time she will be around. I’d rather she just spends those moments on FaceTime with me!
    Thanks, again everyone.

  15. Yael

    As someone who knows nothing about nearly everything, I really enjoy this poem, thank you Susan.
    The last line of your poem reminds me of the apostle Peter, denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed:
    “Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.”

  16. Russel Winick

    Poet Laureate- This is fabulous stuff! You’ve set so high a bar, yet keep exceeding it. I know some folks whom this poem fits spot-on, and I’ll bet everyone else here does too. You’re amazing!

    • Mike Bryant

      It’s amazin’ ain’t it?
      To paraphrase Reagan, it’s not that know-it-alls aren’t smart, it’s just that so much of what they know just ain’t so.

  17. Joshua C. Frank

    Susan, this is great, as usual! The form and short sentences it sound almost like a children’s poem. I’m having trouble picking a favorite line, it’s all great!

    Hopefully, the know-it-all someday learns that much of his knowledge comes from deceiving or deceived sources, especially these days. This is how I overcame that tendency myself.

    The Bible says the same thing: “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” (1 Corinthians 8:1). “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20). “Let no man deceive himself: if any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written: I will catch the wise in their own craftiness [Job 5:13]. And again: The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain [Psalm 93 (94):11].” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20).

    (Yes, I’m aware of the irony of citing knowledge of Scripture against being a know-it-all.)

  18. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I’m sorry I’m late in responding. On returning from a trip to England, I ended up nursing a rather nasty bout of flu. Thank you all for your insightful and inspirational comments. I appreciate every last one of them… and, C.B., I hope your thumbs are still intact. 🙂


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