Happy National Poetry Month! I am once again embarking upon my Poem-A-Day series this year, in which I will feature a poem every day for the month of April. (You can find past years’ curations by clicking here: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. Just click on the first one and then click through forward each day of the month for the whole series.)
To start this month off, I’m doing something unusual this year. First, I’m posting one of my own poems, even though I don’t usually put many of mine into this series and even though I’ve actually posted this poem on my blog before. Second, I’m asking you to participate in a poetry game with me over the course of this entire month.
A cento is a poem crafted from the fragments of many sources. I’m sharing with you today a cento I wrote at the Moss Wood Retreat back in June of 2019. One line in that poem is a fragment from a sentence I wrote in a novel I’m working on. All the other lines came from fragments of things other people at that retreat submitted. I added connective tissue to make the whole thing coherent, and there you have it, a kind of a found poem.
So here’s what I want us to do here, on this blog, this year. In a time when we have to distance ourselves from each other physically — and yes, we really do need to be doing this, for a while — I’m asking us to make a connection as a community on this blog. In the comments section of this post, please leave us a poem of your own, or a paragraph you wrote you were proud of, or even just a fragment of some other beautiful writing. And then I will take fragments from your comments and make a cento out of it, and I invite you to do the same. I will start things off in the comments section by posting a paragraph from one of my own works of fiction — an excerpt from Homecoming (the second book in the Animal Affinities series, and which is coming out later this year). I hope you will join in the fun.
Moss Wood Cento
Moss Wood Writing Retreat, 2019
Carnivals always start the same way:
three boys, three sharp-rocked beginnings
grabbing clandestine hand-holds;
spirits of slain warriors speaking from open mouths;
a tarantula stabbed with a stick;
the occasional hint of cabaret music.
Between the border of yellow birch and
the far shore of rockbound pine,
the tether of some other-than-temporal sea
pulls and pulls with the urgency of future demands
on the boy-man stashed behind the garage,
dreadful poverty and sadness floating across his face,
a grunt-crank biscuit in one hand and
a two hundred-year-old scroll in the other.
The memory of children’s cotton candied fingers
keeps his brusque demeanor at arm’s length.
He works in the negative, his pattern
a mystery to me, but a crease between the bridge
of his nose and his eyebrows is the absence
of sailboats long since stored for the winter.
Will we learn something by the weight of them?
He and I will never be young enough
again to think that friends don’t die.
You can keep your emptiness;
all I hear is sirens and defiance,
loud as a burst of gunfire through ghosts.
I’ve stopped believing in magic.
We are all dodging death,
scattered, secluded, incidents of light.