There were so many great conversations, visual and verbal, offered up for this month’s collaborative prompt between The High Calling’s PhotoPlay and Random Acts of Poetry. We had a hard time choosing what to feature! But we finally settled on a poem-photo combination for The High Calling, one here, and one to come (actually in October) at Every Day Poems.
I loved Roseanne’s sestina, and I asked her about Siler, “Is he an actual cultural reference, or just your sweet fiction?”
Turns out the character in the poem is just that: a fiction. Roseanne said she is fascinated by the possibilities of using sestinas to play with fiction, and she even started a new blog where she can post her explorations. Roseanne’s featured poem today is more a conversation between the poet and culture, but, to my mind, it’s a conversation nonetheless.
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.
All Random Acts of Poetry participants
Anna’s Truth vs. Lies
Charity’s Home Grown
Glynn's The Last Conversation
Kate’s For Terry (Not a sestina)
Maureen’s The Interview
Monica's What Poetry Can Do
Rosanne's Sestina for Fishers of Men
“So I Says to Her, Sweetheart” photo by Peter Rice. PhotoPlay entry, via Flickr. Visit The High Calling, to see other PhotoPlay entries. Thanks to Editors Sam Van Eman and Claire Burge, for working with Tweetspeak for this prompt.
Post by L.L. Barkat. Visit L.L. at Seedlings in Stone, for more on writing, poetry, art and life.
Subscribe to Every Day Poems— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In July we’re exploring sestinas.