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...

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.


Round 1.   10/1/20  No River Twice at Caesura Poetry Festival (via zoom)

O Wheels


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.


Round 2. 10/1/20 No River Twice at Caesura Poetry Festival

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         


Kingdom Come



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

of summer.

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,

perpetual posture,

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

determination, unmistakable,

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.

They cleanse.

 Lansdale #1 


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

©2019 by No River Twice

PO Box 216     Bedminster, PA       18910