Cento

Through all of youth I was looking for you
in the tall willows above the irrigation ditch,
in the hours, minutes, before and after
the stars emerge, one by one into the names
of a dozen friends who have died in recent years.

And on those cruel days when death has its way,
one old man keeps humming the same few notes
and birds migrate through them as they rise up
and wind a thousand miles all night
when the dreams all at once are gone.

Now the moon’s white light begins to show itself,
hauling another winter in its soul, hauling grief
and I wonder whether it might be a dream
in the tall willows above the irrigation ditch
— oblivious and unabashedly cruel.

Author’s note: This Cento was drawn from various poems by W.S. Merwin, Jim Harrison & Thomas Lux. The line attributions are as follows:

Stanza 1 —

Merwin “Youth”
Harrison “New World”
Lux “For My Daughter When She Can Read”
Merwin “Nocturne”
Harrison “Hard Times”

Stanza 2 —

Lux “Frankly, I Don’t Care”
Merwin “Parts of a Tune”
Harrison “Prayer”
Lux “History Books”
Merwin “The First Days”


Stanza 3 —

Harrison “Lunar”
Lux “Winter River”
Merwin “Dream of Koa Returning”
Harrison “New World”
Lux “The Swimming Pool”

Image: Hendrik Will on Unsplash

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