Selected from his recent collection, A Pentecost of Finches, Robert Siegel’s poem “Patmos” shines light on the ancient scene of Saint John receiving his divine revelation on the island of Patmos. This poem is a response to verses in the Book of Revelation including Revelation 1:9-16; 3:19-20.
He was not in his dark cave; he was sun-bathing
on a winter’s day, soaking up heat from a rock
when the sun advanced and split in two. In a ring
of light he saw a blazing figure—no great shock
for him, the bronzed feet, eye of fire,
John told his disciples. He was soon reassured
it was his old friend who had spoken in a whisper
when they last ate together. This time he heard
aloud the same glad promise: “If any one opens the door
I will come in to him and eat with him
and he with me”—now John’s habit at meals, and more
or less constantly throughout the day: in the dim
evening and morning to eat and be satisfied,
as now in the blaze of noon and when the stars sang to his eyes.
We are thrilled to share this poem with you. It jumped out at us since staff from this project recently spent time on the island of Patmos and visited John’s cave (the image used in this post is from the modern-day “window” out of the cave, which now is home to a small chapel).
Robert Siegel is the author of nine books of poetry and fiction. His poetry includes A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems, The Waters Under the Earth, The Beasts & The Elders and In a Pig’s Eye, and he has received prizes and awards from Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Transatlantic Review, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Poetry, Prairie Schooner and, The Atlantic Monthly. His fiction includes Alpha Centauri and the Whalesong trilogy, which received the Golden Archer and Matson awards.
Siegel has taught at Dartmouth, Princeton, and Goethe University in Frankfurt, and for twenty-three years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he directed the graduate creative writing program and is currently professor emeritus of English. He has degrees from Wheaton, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard. He is married to Ann Hill Siegel, a photographer, and lives on the coast of Maine.
“This is indeed gorgeous stuff, one shatteringly beautiful line after another….Siegel’s focus is often on the mystical, on the mysterious small epiphanies of daily life, the pure wonder that they happen.”
–The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram
This poem was used by permission from Robert Siegel and Paraclete Press, publisher of Robert Siegel’s collection A Pentecost of Finches. This work is copyrighted by Robert Siegel and may not be reproduced without permission from Mr. Siegel and Paraclete Press.
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