Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sestina for Fishers of Men

The village watched as Jonathan Siler            
cared for his mother, nursed her day and night.         
They saw him drop out of school, stop seeing         
May Johnson, the girl of his teenage dreams.            
While the village loved Mamie Siler, they                 
began to wish that Jonathan be freed                         

from responsibility, a fish freed
from the hook in its tender mouth. Siler
neither knew nor cared what others thought, they
were as remote from him as the stars at night.
For the first time, he could see his dreams
fleshed out in meaningful tasks, he could see

what others couldn’t, and in truth he saw
a life of ministry where he was freed
to give of himself.  Meanwhile, the town dreamed
of other goals for their young man Siler.
They looked for the stars and saw a dark night
when the fish wouldn’t bite the bated hooks they

dangled.  He couldn’t avoid his fate, they
reasoned, and there was no way he could see
what they could see.  They determined that night
that they would take matters in their hands, free
him from the curse of the only Siler
child.  They thought and thought and finally dreamed

up a scheme.  While the stars blinked, the fish dreamt
of bigger seas, Oprah was contacted. They
convinced her of the sacrifice Siler
was making, and she immediately saw
ratings rise as she provided relief, freed
this young man giving him several nights

to see Chicago, be on her show. Night
fell over this city but starlit dreams
masked the truth.  Well-meaning villagers freed
him from responsibility, but they
couldn’t prevent his mother’s death or see
what effect that death would have on Siler.

The stars in the night watched the fish as they
swam in and out his tortured dreams.  They saw 
that freedom for Siler would never be.


  1. This is beautiful. Especially the envoi. Those last three lines really bring it home so poignantly.

  2. Rosanne, I have a quick question about the poem.

    Can you email me at llbarkat [at] yahoo [dot] com ?

  3. Very well-written, a story in just 39 lines. Excellent envoi.

  4. Great storytelling within a sestina fence!