nrt centos (community made poems)
A cento is a poem composed of lines written by others:
the term comes from the latin word for "patchwork garment."
At a no river twice performance, we track the lines that have connected words or ideas from one poem to the next.
We assemble the lines into a cento at the conclusion
of a round of reading.
Kind of a meta-poem of the reading. A verbal collage.
A motley thing. The poem the audience made.
We'll even send it to you afterwards...
Here are a few recent centos...
A Spectrum of Place and Home
Home was the place where we bloomed, a rose
through jean skirts, a larval thing from bedrock
that had never seen the light of day, a paper crane
folded up, the hell of a schoolbus, an empty bottle
spinning on cement floor, dark hair coiffed,
a flipped chrome lighter, the red tip
of a cigarette that neoned my sister’s name
in the air in flickering tribute, between night
and a bend in the road, as if to hold up our love
to watch the light pass through it.
NRT Short Reading #6 4/14/21 via zoom
Flying Like a Lunatic Carpenter
I've never used the word shabby before,
but it's the only word for being belted
to the backseat of my father's convertible,
driving under trees, when a swallow appears,
wings marbled with streaks of cobalt,
tangled feathers, tide-kinked wings mid flight,
gigantic in its glory like a great blue
handkerchief in the sky's pocket, flying
over asphalt, the cuts and bruises that look
like dirt to us smeared along the blacktop,
good enough for momentum rolling, a performance
designed for no one but witnessed by the spruce,
elastic limbs waving to us in the sun, green
and blinking with butterflies, unimpeded---
and the landscape would not say them nay.
NRT Short Reading #5 3/11/21. via zoom
O wheels of bright invisible stars
You taught eternity, world without end
Each fall I pull you out of the box to test your soles
volunteers in their blue vests assembled
under yesterday’s blown curtains of rain
stretched out in a canoe on the Chickahominy River
fingertips blunt, wasp squashed under thumb
laughter dissipates like smoke.
I don’t know whether I’m selfish or cruel
my voice is undertow
a flare of orange sparks like tracer rounds
I turn to watch the embers disappear.
NRT at Caesura Poetry Festival 10/1/20 (zoom)
Wait Till Sixty
You will turn, in a state, almost deaf—
spend your golden days in the wind,
a chorus of wetting the bed, pajamas
cannabis and cocktails, like a car rattling
to a stop, mowing around your rust for years.
Back in the tank, painted to fool predators
unshaven in the mirror – where do you come from?
Where do you go? Queen, paleontologist, nun,
or none of the above, appearing and disappearing
in a column of indigo smoke.
NRT at Caesura Poetry Festival 10/1/21
I Made Out With A Sweet Vermouth
I can remember the sign of the cross
like riding a bike –
cleaning house to music
and wiggles between sofa cushions.
Sometimes bikes collide,
because what’s the fun of being Barbie,
a pig rooting truffles, the relentless
plague of flies—you can’t soak hams
long enough, cornmeal and pork bones,
it could have been any day,
it had to be this one.
I swear to God, this
chromatic communion my husband
sang in Sunday School—wondering
who will call first?
Phoenixville Cento #1
Remembered from an Earlier Landscape
To love jigsaw puzzles, you have to love trouble,
revising one's map of the world
and that spindly, easily preyed upon feeling
of shame— a copperhead
looked straight in the eye. Empty husk
of skin, soft lash. So many scarred
with your kisses and my claim is tenuous
at best, hands and knees in the dirt, razor
to my neck. The sun's dismissive gaze
turns up the naked body — what’s longed for
beneath the surface— love. The stars will soon
shine close, cast a line in the sea-sprayed afternoon.
Bedminster Cento #2
Shhh, God said, when Eve
held the apple out—
poison or no, chartreuse walnuts
on buttonwood street, stiff
sheets newly folded—
you can learn a lot about people,
maybe kindred, kooks of a moment
ago, sideshow freaks jammed
into a jar—Adam proposes,
takes the old viola, rests
in a tree, what seems like
a thousand cranes pass, mourning doves
under cover, enclosed
like a houseboat, access to the pill,
some blood on a wire,
the exquisite itch
Phoenixville Cento #2
Cool Parchment in a House on Fire
Your flesh— such cohesion, stretched
thinly over wooden finials, a smoke
ocean that seems to curl from you to me,
buttermilk smoke that follows our brief
explosion— our creature of pointed teeth
with a past, fish who walk on cloud feet,
birds in hot water, eight quart stock
pot steaming, hearts and backbone,
electric skin unveiled, you comb
your long, long, ever-tangled hair,
all the stars blown to one side of the sky
Princeton Public Library 11.17.19
Cherry on a Sundae
Pamplemousse, at first, and rhubarb
pie-- new sensations, the naked
body dancing, to rise like a carp,
greener, iridescent green,
and all that remains is clarity,
brisk, bright sky cracked
back, black as crows cawing
to be calm, sky and wait.
Stay still, bird, Breathe.
Farley's Bookshop #2
Bent to Earth
The number of stars climbing toward mercy--
we all have somewhere to be,
like fathers moving quietly in other lives,
better scripted, in bright pink deck chairs
laid against the wall. Just our luck--
a collossal sneer, like growling and snapping
monsters we can prove
by sighting the rare and suburban.
Bucks County Community College #1
You Can Try
Whatever measure offered
goes up, unraveling
bonfires, the road lingering
everywhere, the original
thrill, the naked body—
drink deep. Your taproot,
rabbit cages shattered,
letting go, a luscious ache.
The thing about work is
you try to feel it keenly,
in everybody’s shoes.
Chestnut Hill #1 11/16/18
The Waterbound Leaps
How much I am like you,
down to the chiseled bone,
the last thing I ever want,
pockets tucked with hours
of devotion, who listened and fixed
yellow daisy bouquets, starched
rebellion, the harshness—
smack this marriage, clearing
the day’s lesson of inauspicious
tire tracks, half-lowered goldfinch
in the purple thistle, such grating
fills the air, sway and swish, silk
feathers paint my stiletto heels,
hold still in the radio-fed black—
the fact of her goes on.
Chestnut Hill #2
Springsteen on the Turntable
Your best answer silence.
Baby, this is my church: the deep
significance of sharp-edged things,
a clawed tear in our venture.
Eyes dart, mirror to mirror—
a scarlet berry.
When others ask what color,
ask if she knew, shoot a wide
red-lipsticked “woo hoo”
to anyone passing by.
Life is Radiant
Take beauty— flirting in the white-hot sun,
caution always loses in a contest
with bare skin— the heft of its calling.
I sat on the polished pew and swung my legs,
my husband sang, you ran into the burning,
breathed deeply the fullness of a moon
particular to each odd night, trying
to shake the painted stallion. Not my idea,
sneaking cigarettes in the bio lab,
so praise the god of cloned wheat fields,
the dog heavy on the end of the bed.
Pretend you don’t wish for languor and lust.
June 15, 2019 The Ice House Bethlehem, PA
Think About the Bomb
Think about the bomb, the stench of birth,
she said she wanted to adopt,
understanding the ache.
I want to name this bright day.
Every day a new snowflake,
a bird not moving; losing time.
We play the daydream game,
how to need me. Get lost.
You are not who you say you are.
Bootlaces hold you up.
In a moment, someone reinvents a man,
voices fall into shadow.
You’re the real.
June 15, 2019 The Ice House, Bethlehem, PA
She Resting, He Guarding
So what's the chance this clutch will end
deep in some poet's wine dark Atlantic?
The cuttlefish has three hearts, but no ink,
black as smoke from a poet's inkwell,
small, clear blown glass muddies the waters,
the trout of tumblebrook, its tangy blood,
yellow wings, streaks of onyx and cobalt--
a bad decision to stand thunderstruck, trees
parking the silver drape, its wisteria hysteria,
chandelier, white compote, purple goblet
of sparks, prisms unsmothered by cherry,
unpunctured by tooth--time for an aged provolone.
Chestnut Hill #3 3/22/19
He doesn't care, either, for the upholstery.
The flowers go on blooming,
as from an overturned white rowboat,
but we barely advance, our shoulders
collapsing, the final chord released
in the nape of our necks. It's crowded here,
so many -- pink and silver, chubby,
cartoonish, clinking into one another,
getting ready for bed, a dearth
of dominance, though someone is in charge.
The fastest way to a man's heart?
Straight through the third and fourth rib.
July 14, 2019 Clay on Main, Oley, Pa
The Acquired Knowledge of Childhood
How to liberate chaos, how clouds
want to know the body, the red wind
picking up, how to read, how mother's voice
picks up a song she liked in high school,
how to track the house, how the horse
becomes the cold, cold night, how to soap,
how the sound of the ocean, the want
to restore, erase the collage, how it may
be a long way, but how, on a good day,
as each leaf falls, it is followed by the next,
and the next, and the next, how to tell
a story of how the stars look tonight
NRT Short Reading #2 September 9, 2020
Large Bulge Confined by Fear
Dark and glossy like a finger,
our bodies— swift and shining
in search of meaning. Forgive us
all our flaws. The same rib
made her, made us, against
an unknowing blue sky, our plural
doubled like twin snakes, sugar and salt,
slithering, black and white banded
like the cycle of blue flowers
against a mottled moon, overlapping
burnished scales, bent housewife
and beaten-down husband, penthouse
and houseboat, convince us the bay
is part of the ocean, overbearing branches
undercut, husband on the bandsaw
a hollow where she used to be—
remaindered materials, scarf and pillowcase
Insist on leaving by walking backwards
this oasis—whoever is inside
must be looking out.
Princeton Public Library 11.17.19
WALL – It Will Wear Its Silhouette
Time wears a low neckline
and likes the downward rush and tumble
of social butterflies flitting
she is my needy one, her nails scritch
on the wooded floor
wandering and exploration,
not the only actions.
The soldier drew consequence
from her emerald satin dress
a place for stars to go
I wander the streets by night seeking
Six feet of human compassion
at the foot of Mt Compassion
as a stolid stone tower
collapses, a misshapen chaos
bouncing the rubble
into radioactive motes of joy
12/9/20 Audience Open Reading
Costumes and Ceremonial Robes
are sedge in moonlight, milksilver
in the river, are smoke oceans
of dappled buttersilk, mother's
archlute of ancient hides stretched taut
over the supermoon, setting
left, quiet, right, quieter still
as expected, and why sometimes
before pushing one spoon through
with that small pleasure, one serving
of dark moon is enough, spinning
high in the whistling air. Mother
thinks the agony of creation
has run its course. You are my life,
she says. Mother is satin, silk,
stained-glass, what's hardened and hidden
in lace aprons, cracked like windows.
So she says. She's probably right
2/11/21 short reading #4 via zoom