Cento for black birds pushing against glass*

Cento is a piece of writing, esp. a poem, composed wholly of quotations from the works of other authors. It like a patchwork quilt, a fabricated whole from scraps from other places, people and times.

May ZINE spread

For me I also see Cento pieces like collage, disparate fragments of texts, images, quotes, colours brought together, moved around to create something totally new and unique which pulls meaning from the parts in construction but together go beyond their initial meanings and purposes.

Alchemy comes to mind as well as conjure. Magic.

Is this Mixmoir a Cento? No as I’m using my own text and anyone else’s that appear within it are credited. But I think there is an element of Centoism within the text as I pull from my body of work for the past 6 or 7 years to construct it. Also the different genres of writing and art that are going into the mix to create the whole is Centoist in practice, maybe.

This is an example of a Cento I created recently, which I think will be included in the Mixmoir, eventually.

Cento for black birds pushing against glass*

The first breath comes from early morning blossom.

Rain falls short. Look. The unbuckling sky. Rain.

There’s an old pain. The memory of water keeps

flowing heavy with blood. Bloodhounds catch the scent.

Black bodies packed into boats and the tide still rolling in.

A corpse dangling from the end of a rope. Justice they say.

And they cut off parts for souvenirs. Within these city walls

there is no room for self-love. Grin, keeping grinning at the camera.

My heart catches on fire as it could easily be my story. My body.

Along blood lines, pumped into the centre of the wound

it’s the body that remembers as tonight this river will receive

the crushed burden like black morels under foot.

Pull the earth on top of her, turn her black face away from the light.

I can not. But they’ve got the centuries’ old tradition to fall back on;

the rich white man and the black woman kept close

in the big house always ready to be split.

*Cento composed of lines from my past poems which were partly composed of lines taken from various other creatives. The title is from Lucille Clifton, and other lines are borrowed from James Allen, Kara Walker, Tafisha Edwards, Ocean Vuong, Billie Holiday, Martha Collins, and Toi Derricotte. There also a nod towards the film Monster’s Ball.

Discovering New Landscapes

‘i said to trauma,
“i am so much more than you.” ‘ – Kai Chen’s Thom, I Hope We Choose Love

The final prompt last night in Honouring Our Wholeness with @olwen.wilson had us wondering about what seeds we could plant if we consider how we are so much more than our trauma.
This is what I created. ‘Discovering New Landscapes.’ Trauma is a very familiar territory for me. I’ve been carrying around these fragmented pieces of land in my body for years ever since I was 9 years old and my dad died of leukaemia. Then my sister died. Then my mum died. One traumatic experience after another builds up layers of scar tissue, thick and hardening, from the bones out. Me thinking I can protect myself from pain hiding within the rolls of fat around my body. My whole body is a landscape of accumulated pain, suffering, abuse, self-abuse, rejection, hate and cruelty. And yet, last night in this gathering of women, feminine and non-binary people who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, I traced golden lines around my trauma. I remembered my mother and her body, like the pomegranate, full of seeds, but who’s garnet juice ran out as she miscarried after having me, which reminded me of my miscarriage before Miss Ella came along. But from these seeds within and without, new life, new power can be nurtured and brought to fruition. New landscapes of grasses and wild flowers can be tended. In time. In space. In body and mind and soul.

A Quickening

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
― Martha Graham

Writing around this quote today, I realised that I feel energised when I create. I say ‘create’ but what do I mean?
Over the past few days of being confined to home, I’ve created pocket books, a days of December journal. I’ve decorated postcards for a international swap. I’ve put words, paint and scraps of paper to paper. I’ve collaged as if my life depended on it. And in a way it has. Because all of this creating feeds my soul and this is where my energy comes from.
My light source is my soul. If I feed this source on a daily basis then I have the energy to get through my day. And saying ‘get through my day’ sounds like a chore. But it’s not when I’m feeding my source, my light, my soul with this special, rich sauce that keeps me alive, brings me joy like playing with colour or words.
Things are not perfect and never will be. We’re not rolling in money and we have our worries. But each day, I feel I’m growing in light and grace and gratitude because I’ve made this showing up at the page a priority for me.
For me it all involves paper.
Paper and what I decide to do each time with that paper. Write on it, cut it, stick it, colour it, fold it, sew it. Paper.