Today’s prompt is to write a cento. This is a poem that is made up of lines taken from other poems.
Entertaining Angels Unawares The sky wasn’t black or blue but the green of a dying night. Faded mattresses sagged against a chain-link fence, fading more in the moonlight and I find you falling for that feeling, see you staring, staring, your heart so tired of beating. It has been said that scorpions dance where language falters and gives way. At the hospital they’re calling your name. I tried to follow in your footsteps, but they turned to water; the river seeped in over your boots. Forsake my thumb for the sheen of unshod hooves. Every ball drops like an anvil heavy, to tenderly touch the heavy skull, furred and rough. We’re disguised as orthodontists having a convention, putting on aprons and paper hats. What every smart child knows: Change is a thing one sleeps through. O, how we entertain the angels.
I gathered random lines from poems in American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time edited by Tracy K. Smith. Then I shuffled them around until they almost told a story. I confess I tweaked some of the lines to make the poem more cohesive.
Here are the lines in their original form, with credit to the original poets and their poems:
The sky wasn’t black or blue but the green of a dying night. (Natalie Diaz, “My Brother at 3 AM”) Faded mattresses sag against a chain-link fence. (Cathy Park Hong, “Who’s Who”) Fading and find you falling for that feeling, you staring farther (Dara Wier, “Scorch Marks”) The heart is so tired of beating (Ada Limón, “Downhearted”) It has been said that scorpions dance where language falters and gives way. (Charles Wright, “Charlottesville Nocturne”) At the hospital they’re calling your name (Erika L. Sánchez, “The Poet at Fifteen”) I tried to follow in your footsteps, but they turned to water (John Yau, “Music from Childhood”) the river seeped in over your boots (Natasha Tretheway, “Elegy”) forsake my thumb for the sheen of unshod hooves. (Ross Gay, “becoming a horse”) Every ball drops like an anvil, heavy (Donika Kelly, “Fourth Grade Autobiography”) to tenderly touch the heavy skull furred and rough (Steve Scafidi, “For the Last American Buffalo”) disguised as orthodontists having a convention (Dean Young, “Romanticism 101”) putting the aprons back on, the paper hats, (Matthew Dickman, “Minimum Wage”) What every smart child knows— (Yona Harvey, “Hurricane”) Change is a thing one sleeps through (Christian Wiman, “The Diagnosis”) O, how we entertain the angels (Nicole Sealey, “Object Permanence”)
I had every intention of participating in NaPoWriMo all month long, but I forgot until April 10, when I happened to see a NaPoWriMo post on a blog I follow. So instead of writing 30 poems in 30 days, I only wrote 13. (Yes, I skipped a few days when I was worn to a frazzle or had absolutely no inspiration.) I console myself with the thought that I wrote more poems in April than I did in the first three months of 2022.
Congratulations to all you poets who participated in the challenge! Let’s all keep up the good work.