NaPoWriMo, Day 25: A Cento (Which Doesn’t Mean it Has 100 Lines)

How Long the Years Grow

Into the dangerous world I leapt,
like strings of broken lyres.

Again, when have I ever not loved?

I summon you now,
the happy genius of my household,
from a kingdom that bullies, and hectors, and swears.

And within the pane-lit windows,
the ghosts swarm.

Skin remembers how long the years grow.
Let’s ask a poet with no way of knowing:

Did I have to be born?

With many, many thanks to the following poets:

William BlakeThomas HardyDerek WalcottMay Sarton, William Carlos Williams, Philip Freneau, Bill Knott, Rae Armantrout, Naomi Shihab Nye, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Mattathias (as translated by David Rosenberg).

OK, putting in the links took longer than writing the poem …

A cento is a poem made entirely of lines borrowed from other poems. For mine, I went to and navigated to their index of poems appropriate for various holidays. I grabbed a line from one poem for each holiday listed there. I did this mostly in order, except that I flipped Chanukah and Christmas because the line I found for Chanukah was an especially killer ending, and I just didn’t like the poem as much without the flip in the last two lines. I also made a few changes to punctuation and such, where needed for sense.

I had fun with this. Was it … cento-riffic? Maybe. Maybe it was.

Oh, and also, P.S.: I forgot to say thank you, thank you here to Vince Gotera for featuring one of my poems from a few days back, on his blog, The Man with the Blue Guitar. I was honored and thrilled, and you should visit him posthaste!


8 thoughts on “NaPoWriMo, Day 25: A Cento (Which Doesn’t Mean it Has 100 Lines)

    • I didn’t notice the slant rhymes before, but of course, now I see (and hear) them. I did grab each line based on the one before, so maybe I had more of a structure in mind than I thought. I think you’ve done this before … pointing out sounds that I hadn’t noticed.

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