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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cento Absento

A year and a half ago I wrote a blog post about the cento form. I tried it out myself, and forgot about it till today when I came across my effort in a pile of old poems. It's below (all 100 lines, followed by the sources of the lines). I had some fun with weaving enjambments between the lines of disparate poets. Hope you enjoy it. (Apologies for some formatting problems.) (Also, I sometimes messed with the punctuation of the original lines, for my own devious purposes.)



Cento Absento


I am a figure in a logic problem                                                         
gone wild with error,
such as tipping the future a little too far forward or             
the air has found something of itself to regret.                                  

Every microcosm needs its crow.                                          
The mind is a tiny island you’ve washed up on.                                
Everything has to be reimagined each sunrise—                               
a landscape, and a person walking in that landscape.                        

Be courageous when the mind deceives you, be                               
made of my womb's long-playing record. Listen to                          
the hammer's shadow in the shadow of a hand,                                
no larger than a bird coffin.                                                             

One finds what he wants, so he steps to the edge, drops,                 
or, defying physics through ceremony,                                              
will simply be the cessation of asking, a thousand                            
of someone else's memory: obey gravity.                                          

No map I carry hints at this:                                                              
to float you must float from within,                                                  
smiling inside a twirling of ovals and ellipses                        
inventing pizzicato as they fled the horizon.                                     

Don't you imagine the leaves think how                                            
they mapped with their bodies? We visited                                      
the door closed against the half-lit hall                                              
we always seem to be opening but never ever do.                            

Rain breaks and falls like the mismatched                                         
bones beneath the skin of a hand.                                                      
The lights go on in all the windows but one.                                     
In the best paintings some key figure is always missing. This is the magic   

of a kiss. The world is repeatedly stained,                                         
was a different color for each of us. My shadow                              
accepts the weight of birds                                                                
each morning. Each evening hands them back.                                 

Beauteous forms of substance wild                                       
are saying birds between them. Sun through green leaves like green
rainwater on a piano—I'm so                                                             
surprised at the earth.                                                                         

I know the ocean is glamorous,                                                         
and solstice fish, their eyes gone milky white,                                  
flat lime white, as they flash their semaphores.                                 
I sit in front of what the inevitable will do.                                       

Let's assume about the body:                                                             
for bones moonlight will do.                                                              
The body is the vehicle of a wish.                                                     
I mean I trust what breaks                                                                 

everything. Minus us, nobody offers believable explanations           
where I might gather such a thing as a face,                                      
a line, make it my mouth. I'll name                                                    
a window without a building, an eye.                                               

 Bon    Bone shuddering as though it were bird, rainy                                  
thesis regarding the origin of love, I                                                  
spill over my faint lines and anyone could cross me out.                  
What’s sacred tries itself.       

            I suppose this error will go on & on,                                                  
not torn and built of green, but of a crumbling                     
god, the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw                    
like a boomerang—yes, something you yourself began.        

Something in you believes that it is not the end.                               
Centuries and days are made of the same fiber,                                
joints dovetailed on their own weight,                                              
painted, flying in opposite directions. Silence,                                  

a never air, the lens for being                                                             
that isn't slowly subtracting its ache,                                                 
one length of forgiveness.                                                                  
Is it true the sadder we are, the more things stand still?                   

Take your household gods,                                                                
girdled with the lightening,                                                               
each separated from the next by an unpeopled space.                       
They fight for who gets to keep                                                         
 
insect wing and squawk. I might as well                                            
so I take out a patent on slow-moving fog.                                       
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road,                           
colder than Charon, its moon. We're not alone:                                 

here is a doll made from pieces. The pieces hate one another,       
grunt work across the hard curve of absence.                                    
The trick is to make it personal:                                                         
we are together in some birds, who fail.                                            

And the stranger's face hidden in the family picture                         
is a heavy breather that serves its queen slowly,                                
is an impossibility that has its uses—                                                 
uses; uses instead of feelings.                                                

Out of shamelessness something                                                       
polishes itself inside its temple. Ask me to repent                             
where it won't jam machinery,                                                           
tethering tools that loosen at a tug, or ones made of water, wind.    

Sound of a crow, pulling the one nail from its voice,                                    
math of cold inside the bones, a numbness—                                               
our whole body is like a harbor at dawn.                                           
Know this: blue's an illusion. The things that shelter us are colorless and     

between me and the chewing dark.                                                               
In a unit of time, in a violence of sleep,                                             
this waiting is more like waiting than I thought it would be.            
Measuring changes everything.                                                          

Voice is a silence in which now I appear                                           
to drink from the holy water of the retina,                                        
monitoring you as you go.                                                                 
The world has changed. The news will take some time to get here.

If you're wild now but have ever been domestic                               
carry your own chill, separate from the air's.                                     
What instruments we have agree                                                       
that every set has something in common with the ‘empty set.’

 
 

 

Sources for Cento Absento
 
1.      Nan Cohen, “Girder"
2.    Jennifer Chang, “Postscript”
3.      J. Allyn Rosser, “Equilibrium Update”    
4.      Jill Alexander Essbaum, “Bird Advice”     
 
5.      David Young, “Walking Home on an Early Spring Evening”   
6.      Dean Young, “Look at Quintillions Ripen’d & Look at Quintillions Green
7.      Mona van Duyn, “The Twins”
8.      Denise Levertov, “Zeroing In"
 
9.      Zbigniew Herbert, translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter,The Envoy of Mr. Cogit
10.  Lesley Jenike, “Three’s Brainchild Is”
11.  Franz Wright, “After”
12.  Bruce Bond, “Confessions of a Music Box”
 
13.  Cameron Thomas,  Apprehension in the Blurry Trees
14.  Craig Morgan Teicher, “Brenda is in the Room”
15.  Stefi Weisburd, “Little God Origami”
16.  Cynthia Arrieu-King & Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis, “Obey Gravity”
 
17.  William Pitt Root, “Out There”
18.  Larissa Szporluk , “Trapeze”
19.  Billy Collins,  “One Life to Live”
20.  Herman de Coninck translated by Laure-Anne Bosselaar and Kurt Brown, “Genesis"

 
 
 
21.      Mary Oliver, “Song for Autumn”
22.      Minati Singh, “Ode” 
23.      Marianne Boruch, “After The Moon”       
24.      Catie Rosemurgy, “All Objects Reveal Something About the Body”

25.  Emma Howell, “Tempest”
26.  Jenny Browne, “The Cry Bone’s Connected to the Why Bone”
27.  Paul Hostovsky, “Dusk Outside the Braille Press”
28.  G. C. Waldrep, “Apologia Pro Vita Tua”  
 
29.  Allison Smythe, “Something in My Eye”
30.  Pamela Alexander, “Lightfall”
31.  Mary Cornish, “Legato"
32.  Charles Wright, “China Traces” 
 
33.  Jean-Paul Pecqueur, “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”
34.  A. E. Watkins, “No Narrative”
35.  Alice Notley, “A Baby Is Born Out of a White Owl's Forehead – 1972”
36.  W. S. Merwin, “For the Anniversary of My Death”
 
 
 
 
 
37.      Erin Belieu,  “Last Trip to the Island”
38.      Amanda Jernigan, “Lulla
39.      Robert Gibb, “Posthumous” 
40.      Jim Moore, “Blood Harmony”
 
41.  Amaud Jamaul Johnson, “Approaching Thunder”        
42.  John Lindgren, “The Invention of Birds” 
43.  Liz Waldner, “The Uses of  Things”
44.  David Rivard, “God the Broken Lock”
 
45.  Fred Muratori, “The Ghost Back Home”
46.  John Rybicki, “Her Body Like a Lantern Next to Me”
47.  Sandra Beasley, “The Sand Speaks”
48.  Young Smith, “She Considers the Dimensions of Her Soul"

49.  Colin Cheney, “Stabat Mater (Marie Curie's Pitchblende)”  
50.  Troy Jollimore, “On the Origin of Things”
51.  Tom C. Hunley, “Self-Portrait as a Child’s Stick Figure Drawing on a Refrigerator
52.  Adrienne Rich, “The Desert as Garden of Paradise"
 
53.  Jon Anderson, “The Secret of Poetry”
54.  Mark Irwin, “Voice, Distant, Still Assembling"
55.  Mary Oliver, “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches”
56.  Carrie Etter, “The Curious Daughter"
 
57.  Frank  Bidart, “If See No End In Is"
58.  Sally Fisher, “Valse Ghazal”
59.  Jane Hirschfield, “For What Binds Us”
60.  Lightsey Darst, “="
 
61.  Dabney Stuart, “Traveling Light"
62.  Alison Titus, “Former Automotive Plant”
63.  Jennifer Moss, “The Storm”
64.  Lisa Russ Spaar, “The Geese” 
 
65.  Katie Ford, “Rarely”
66.  Czeslaw Milosz, “On Angels”
67.  Fernando Pessoa, “The Spoke to Me of People, And of Humanity”
68.  Ephraim Scott Summers, “Because the Body is Made of Water” 
 
69.  Sarah Hannah, “Tread-softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus)
70.  Michael Dumanis, “Natural History”
71.  Mark Strand, “The Remains”
72.  Todd Charon, “Last Look” 
 
73.  William Dickey, “Chants"
74. Dean Rader, "Ocean Beach at Twilight: 14"
75. Khaled Mattawa, "Ecclesiastes"
76. Bill Knott, "Widow's Winter"
 

77.  Laura Kasischke, “At the end of the text, a small bestial form”            
78.  Sarah J. Sloat, “Book of Hours Ghazal”
79.  Vijay Seshadri, “Imaginary Numbers”
80.  Dan Chiasson,  “Tree” from “Swifts"

81.  Carl Phillips, “Civilization”
82.  C. McAllister Williams, “Flesh”
83.  Hayden Saunier, “Last Will”
84.  Jody Rambo, “I am weatherly and so”
 
85.  Bob Hicok, “Empty Similes”
86.  Joanna Klink, “Winter Field”
87.  Robert Bly, “Waking from Sleep”
88.  Dionisio D. Martínez, “Did We Betray the River”
 
89.  Lynne Knight, “Cell Talk”  
90.  Jennifer Militello, “Answering Fear as if It Were a Question”
91.  Carley Moore, “The Match”
92.  Kate Gleason, “The Velocity of Love"
 
93.  Danniel Schoonebeek, “Genealogy (rest)”  
94.  Albert Blanco translated by Jennifer Clement, “Horses by Midnight”
95.  Susan Prospere, “Ultramundane Traveller”
96.  Mark Jarman, “Dispatch from Devereux Slough"
 
97  y madrone, “Tulip is the bravest flower, I mean bird.”
98.  Joshua Corey, “A solitude of the ear buoys the breath's answer
99.  W. H. Auden, “In Memory of W.  B. Yeats”
100.          Lars Gustaffson translated by Christopher Middleton, “Notes on the 1860s”
 
 

 
 

 

 

 

3 comments:

Tressa said...

Wow. (That's actually all I can think of to say right now. I'm going to have to come back and read that a second time.)

Jessica Goodfellow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica Goodfellow said...

Tressa, the 99 poets I borrowed from (Mary Oliver is in there twice) thank you, I'm sure!