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...


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, skin an empty husk, a soft lash. 

So many scarred with your kisses. 


My claim is tenuous at best. Hands and knees 

in the dirt, razor to my neck, under the sun's 


dismissive gaze. Monday turns up the naked body— 

what’s longed for, beneath the surface, love. 


The stars will soon shine down 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   


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

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 


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                             


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

Aphrodite: Yellow Hair, White Shag, SeaFoam

And Odysseus, lover of hog-witch and sea-bitch

lured away into my waters, swimming some nights in the weedless cold, frozen,

curled up, nails smooth and opalescent,

fingers in the saltbox.

His name is what was left when all the better words,

were taken, his penis, put in a pail of water

at the door.

We tell each other stories to get through the day,

evenings urge the neighbors to their front porches.

Eyes rove the world beneath their lids,

two vowels

magnetized in a glass case, a glass eye gone

to ash in a grease fire, the apple cheeked puppet

weeping, all green souls elating into night.

Chestnut Hill #4  3/22/19

The Original Flaw

is fear-- of being the first

to enter, deep in every door lock

due to some defect of songbirds

in gum trees and the turkey vulture

cleanup crew, food and fellowship

that is mostly blood and some peacock,

that after centuries of loss,

we are undone, like potted ferns

or shit like this-- the way

fruit in the trash is like

lipstick stains, the way I curl

my lips and paint them red.

Bucks County Community College #2


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


Through the Crannies of the Shop

Her blown-pink kisses tremble

and silver, slender alabaster,

you swore you'd never suffer

birth, fluid and murderous,

ice-blue, crinkling at the corners

black slips asleep like lambs,

youth-drunk, the mingled stench

of smelling salts, mirror-river

emptying my eyes.

Farley's Bookshop #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

Old Stains


Like rain pissing down from a ruined sky,

this last dance with our fathers--nature wraps,

its graphite bells ringing their needle-jazz,

these poems nothing more than water, songs

from the dark lagoon, their hauntings all bad

housekeepers far away from housekeeping,

green stains on our elbows, mud on our backs--

this relentless plague of flies. There is that.

July 14, 2019 Clay on Main Oley, Pa



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

Back Home


She celebrates with lemon fizz,

its taste like home. A mermaid--

her deserted fish-grace, and what

she devours, peeling back like bark

in snow, remade by waves, blood-

borne, giving name to her experience,

a mother wondering aloud

if she could bind pain and pride

together, outrace the shiver

down her spine, the crack

that makes the vase precious,

the colors between the stars,

animal grace in a jungle world.


Cold Morning


with its new catastrophes,

crickets in the park out-

decibeled, stolen from apple

orchards, all annexed

berries, the beauty of your face

a freighted hope, a night

that will soon smooth

its empty bowl, its pension

of shrapnel, its journey

by rail. Let the night

take you. I swear to God--

I will become a murderer,

I will become a poet,

and you have not seen

or heard the last of it.

Phoenixville Community Arts    10.18.19


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

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

Lullaby from the Worm in Your Liver

These stones are bones that never ache,

            are snakes

knotted and twisting at the root, red-

            painted barn

disappearing in night light, flaking farmhouse,

            drab grass field,

overturned white bird whose neck we use

            in our soup,

the curve of chain-linked bones around

            the cemetery, ask

for love’s attention, the sweet storm

            gathering over the graveyard.

Maybe it is possible to beckon you back

            in— then you will write

the poem about me.  My poem comes

            at the end,

only long enough to lose you, dangling

            off the rusty edge,

telling our friends we died, where

            all the waters

come together, kicking desperately to tread

            the last time I smile.


 Newtown Library Company,  Nov 15, 2019

©2019 by No River Twice

PO Box 216     Bedminster, PA       18910