After Votes Are Counted, A Low Simmering Hatred Boils Over – A Cento


This is a different sort of writing. A different sort of writing practice. I wrote a cento.

Cento, from the Latin word patchwork. A collage poem, a cento is a poetic form that is composed of lines from other poets’ poems. A true cento is formed entirely from other poets’ lines.

After Votes Are Counted, A Low Simmering Hatred Boils Over

a cento

Weep for the country in its present state.
So fallen! So lost! The light withdrawn –
All night I dreamed of roses
Of morning, the languor of another morning.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
We need to know in America there is still
for forgiveness.

Let’s look at our loneliness in this desert
The deep night, and birds singing, and clouds flying,
And sleep, and freedom, and the autumnal earth.

When the few true defenders of love and justice survive to tell the tale,
Then, perhaps then, God Bless America.


from the poets George Horton, John Whittier, Sophie Jewett, Cesare Pavese, Naomi Shihab Nye, Shann Ray, Raul Zurita, Rupert Brooke, John Fuller


The Mind — An Amazing Container

Tree Shadows, Watching

Tree Shadows, Watching ©2012 Bo Mackison

. . . collect glances, glimpses, nuances, images, and tonalities
. . . remember the essences of performances
. . . snap-shot memories.
~ Eric Maisel, describing artist’s memory in his book Creativity for Life

I read the above quote while taking Eric Maisel’s Advanced Creativity Coaching training and wondered if I could write a vignette using these words — glance, glimpse, nuance, image, tonalities, essence, snap-shot.

I decided to tackle a memory from my childhood, one that I recalled but had never fleshed out in writing. In using the words as prompts, I discovered this was a potent way to kick-start the writing process.

I also discovered that the mind is an amazing container of details. When I focused on a specific memory, I could re-create the setting in my mind.

In this poem, an example of the technique, each stanza addresses a single word, in this order — glance, tonality, glimpse, nuance, image, essence, snap-shot.

Entering Ward B-3 at Jacksonville State Hospital*

The grizzle faced men sit like stone statues in their straight-backed chairs.
Hard to ignore their faces, I sneak glances while keeping
my head down, I pretend-watch my feet.

Tree branches grasped by swirling winds, November trickery,
knock against a window. A blind man curses
each time the branches strike the dark beyond.

My grandfather lies asleep in his bed, the last cot
on the left. A sheet covers his head.
His feet stick out from the edge of the brown wool blanket.

I walk on sunlit shadows, patterns of leaves
on the black and white tiles, avoiding the cracks.
“Step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back…”

Rows of metal beds, head-boards of white enamel bars,
windows of frosted glass, more bars; two men play checkers,
another covers his bed with sections of the Chicago Tribune.

These beds are like church pews, evenly spaced
on either side of the aisle; and the nurses station is a sacristy
protected by glass and metal grating.

A ruddy-faced patient, dressed only in striped pajama pants,
peers into the nurses’ station. No one notices him.
He spits on the glass and demands that his toe nails be trimmed.


*Jacksonville State Hospital was one of the first state hospitals built in the United States to specifically care for the mentally ill. It was built in 1848. The hospital closed due to deteriorating conditions and budget cuts in 1975, and was demolished.


Bo Mackison is artist, photographer, book-maker, collector of stories, naturalist, poet, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.    She and her family spent many Sunday afternoons visiting her grandfather. They often brought Kentucky Fried Chicken and had a picnic lunch on the grounds of the hospital. Her grandfather loved Kentucky Fried Chicken.