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  • By Adam Sedia

Sestina: Mushrooms


Up from the shadowed forest floor you rise,

Grim undertakers in the train of death

From whose smashed, stinking remnants you draw life,

Gorging yourselves upon his latest kill

With secret glee you never deign to show

Beneath your wide brims at your silent feast.

You end, though, featured at a splendid feast,

In sauces, soups, and stews whence scents arise

That tempt the palate as much as your show

On roast meats, bathed in wine or cream – the death

From which you rose, the putrefying kill

Forgotten, as you lusciously feed life.

Death-born, death-bearing, yet your craft is life,

Fashioned as much to heal as deck the feast,

Inclined as much to liberate as kill;

By you afflicted frames grow strong and rise,

Freed from disease, debility, and death,

Transformed as any miracle could show.

Transcending all corporeal bounds, you show

The universe beyond the outward life

For all who dare make you their divine feast,

Opening doors that lead past time and death,

Through which awakened souls in wonder rise

And glimpse spheres which seen otherwise would kill.

You nourish, heal, reveal – but also kill,

A secret murderer who dare not show

Your work until the final pangs arise;

Destroying angel squelching out all life

Covertly, a macabre and final feast,

Consumed consuming unto pang-wracked death.

Fiery angel of world-consuming death,

Ascending where atomic sun-fires kill

By millions; death once more becomes your feast,

But now you soar among the clouds, to show

Death’s grim dominion of all earthly life,

And, loosed from death, the soul’s desire to rise.

Prince of the realm of death, your workings show

The hand of God: you kill and yet give life,

And let the starved mouth feast, the bound mind rise.

Adam Sedia (b. 1984) lives in his native Northwest Indiana, with his wife, Ivana, and their two children, and practices law as a civil and appellate litigator. In addition to the Society’s publications, his poems and prose works have appeared in The Chained Muse Review, Indiana Voice Journal, and other literary journals. He is also a composer, and his musical works may be heard on his YouTube channel.


Sep 23, 2022

Thank you all for the comments. I wanted to link the mushroom with the mushroom cloud, which almost at once recalled the various other associations explored. Form proved difficult, and it finally occurred to me: this would make for a good sestina. I first tried my hand at the sestina probably 13 years ago or so, but was never satisfied with what it produced -- until now. It is a tricky form that can very easily sound mechanical and forced.

Sep 24, 2022
Replying to

When I saw that it was a sestina, I came to the poem fearing the worst because the format is, as you say, quite 'mechanical' and restricting. But you've done well Adam, balancing the mechanics of a rigid format with some imaginative content. I think that poetry is sometimes about the great effort it takes to make something difficult seem effortless and unforced. I'd rate this poem with your best work.


David Gosselin
David Gosselin
Sep 18, 2022

A masterful use of classical metaphor. Adam takes a seemingly simple or familiar image and takes us on a genuinely new and expansive philosophical and spiritual journey.

Poetry is about bringing life's "more than meets the eye" quality to the fore, in this way unveiling some kind of deeper truth or wisdom. Here, Adam succeeds.


Sep 15, 2022

Sestinas can be very mechanical. And seem very much like artificially imposed order...

To which the naturally emergent *disorder* of the mushroom has been nicely opposed here. And the inevitability of their eventual triumph skilfully diagrammed, and even ritualised.


Aug 17, 2022

I like everything about this. This is a work of great craft and skill, which also makes some bold imaginative leaps, including the link between a mushroom and the mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion. Wonderful!

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