An Open Letter to a Fellow Poet

for Adam Sedia

But why against one poor poet, a hundred men?

—Cyrano de Bergerac (Edmond Rostand)

What dreams do come to distress needful sleep,
to cause me wakeful to take up my pen
and write by Roman candle light of deep
portentous auguries that must needs frighten
vates* and seers bound the truth to keep?

Against my will, this fiendish nightmare bids
me mount and, bellicose, courses its night
journey toward a pillar of acrid,
smoth’ring smoke. It commands me to alight
and witness that which pity ought forbid.

Upon this place of abomination,
Nero’s pleasure dome, I descend to view
diverse sinners in diverse damnation:
foolish, weak, confused, some few evil too;
gruesome aspects lit by conflagration.

Not to the damned but to that fiery light
my eyes attend, transfixed in horror.
For my visage I see, and on my right
and left fellow guildsmen, in mad furor
persecuted for the crime of Word-wright.

If burn we must, poets, then let us blaze
an incendiary light whose brilliance
sights oriel eyes while souls it parlays
into searing burning-bush radiance.
On truth as human torches, let them gaze.

*Vates: Cumulatively or alternatively, a divinely inspired prophet, poet or oracle



A Postmodernist Bestiary

“The animals they came on board,
two by twosie, twosie;
Elephant and kangaroosie, roosie.
Children of the Lord.”

—traditional children’s Bible song

While walking today I glimpsed two otters
at play, disporting themselves gleefully—
I joined the merry chase, in hopes of a
better view, but they were too quick for me;
I could not catch them unaware. A loud
slap of their tails ended the comedy
as with a whoosh of rushing water they
deftly dove and swam away, laughingly.
I took great delight in our simple game,
much joy, indeed, their gay frolics gave me.
I marveled, though, that they were here at all:
in urban settings, quite the oddity
for they had long been gone from these environs,
victims of the fittest philosophy.

I have scant regard for the lake’s usual
inhabitants who excel quislingly
in adaptive coexistence: screeching
gulls; scavenging coyotes cowardly;
slithering green snakes, unseen underfoot,
hiding with sly Masonic secrecy;
and incessantly chattering squirrels,
noisy in their useful idiocy.
Migrant hordes of squawking geese flaunting their
protected status I especially
decry as contemptuous despoilers
of the habitat’s native ecology.

But of late I have seen evidence
of some others, who also ought not be
in this utopia, whose signs and spoors
disturb the stamp of postmodernity.
One is accustomed to used styrofoam
Starbucks cups, domesticated-doggy
droppings, old tires, an occasional
hypodermic syringe—common debris—
even feral human scat, but otters,
sleek glistening brown; and white swans snowy,
gliding serenely past a sentinel
blue heron; red-winged blackbird soldiery
guarding diffident dappled-deer browsing
daintily near a leafy alder tree,
and deep-bassed croaking bullfrogs, audible
heralds of returning vitality.
Thus conspicuous, they startle by their
unanticipated residency.
Rarest of all, and wonder of wonders,
signs of a deemed-extinct species I see:
Icthys*, the fish that walks on land.

March, 2018

*ΙΧΘΥΣ (ichthys) is an acronym “Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ” which translates into English as “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour” initially used as a secret sign during the time when Christians were persecuted by the Roman authorities.



Denise Sobilo’s work has previously been published by the St. Austin Review; The Imaginative Conservative; Jesus the Imagination; and The Antioch Review.

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5 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson


    Please ask Evan to send you my e-mail address, or, if Evan reads this, then perhaps he will send it without your asking. If you contact me, I will ask for your land address, because I would like to mail you copies of my two books of poetry.

    Also, these two poems were delightfully complicated and I would like to discuss some of your prosodic techniques privately rather than publicly.

      • Denise Sobilo

        I have asked Evan for your email contact but the request must have slipped by him, or perhaps he needs to hear it from you. In any case, perhaps you should make the request. I am really interested in discussing your theories of poetry, especially since I recently found and read your interview and saw the title of your books “Roots in the Sky, Boots on the Ground: Metaphysical Poems”

  2. Adam Sedia

    I am as honored to have been addressed by such an illustrious colleague as I am delighted by the skilled craftsmanship and stirring message of the poem. I am touched and humbled to know that my experience could have inspired such a work, and I pray that the message resounds far and wide.

    Please get my e-mail from Evan if you wish at all to contact me directly.

  3. Denise Sobilo

    And done.

    Looking forward to some meaningful conversation, as well as copies of your poetry, C.B.


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