10 May 2011

m. l. smoker cento

navigate imperfectly

these confused blood cells
need to ask you if you have ever regretted leaving
if forgiveness were molded in between my hands
dreaming to the rhythm of horses’ hooves
but I do not remember anymore
and the last road you know as well as I do

we are the kids outside the bingo hall
my cries combust into purple flames
swallowed by glaciers the size of ten thousand buffalo

should I roll on the ground
should I say no northern fields, no distance

we might be left to discover the sound
to forget in different ways. No one notices that the wild
gold stalks trapped in a moment of wind
curse and curse throughout the night

listen for meaning as teeth click quietly together
after that, arrival is what matters most

m. l. smoker
The prompt at We Write Poems this week asked that we write a cento. Here’s how they described a cento. First gather some poem lines from one other writer,then without changing any of the content select, rearrange and assemble a new poem from those poem lines.

Then, to add to the prompt, they ask that we pick a poet we turn to for inspiration, or when we are out of poetic sorts. I chose m. l. smoker. Smoker is an enrolled member of both the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes in Montana. The lines in my cento are taken from my autographed copy of Smoker’s book, Another Attempt at Rescue. In her professional life, Smoker is Mandy Smoker Broaddus, head of the Montana Office of Public Instruction’s Indian Education department. After seeing her present Native American educational statistics at a conference in 2009, I wrote a poem for her called overflowing. Check it out if you are interested.


Anonymous said...

Centos are one of the hardest. I now want to read m.l. smoker's work, since the lines you chose are so evocative. Impressive work, Brenda! Amy

And a little night music:

Mary said...

Nice lines tied together well, Brenda, and an excellent title. I can see why you were inspired by Smoker's words.

Promising Poets Parking Lot said...

you are capable of almost everything.
keep it up.

brenda w said...

~Amy, One of my goals was to spread the word about Smoker's work. She is an astonishing woman. Thank you for your kind words.
~Mary, Thanks...the title is actually another line from Smoker's work.
~Thank you Parking Lot. :)

Dave King said...

This is one case where you need to know how the poem was written in order to get the most from it. Knowing that, the work is quite extraordinary. The lines are quite obviously chosen and used with great skill. Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

I will have to investigate this Montana poet. The lines you chose intrigue me. I particularly like your putting together of : No one notices that the wild
gold stalks trapped in a moment of wind
curse and curse throughout the night

Isabel said...

wonderful poet you chose. the lines you picked are filled with wonderful imagery.

flaubert said...

Brenda, I love what you did with Smoker's lines. I must read her writing, now. Thanks for this.


Peggy said...

Excellent choice of poetic lines. They flow together well. I am enjoying reading your other works as well.

brenda w said...

It thrills me that you all like this piece. Not for me, but for Mandy Smoker.

Thank you so much for coming by, giving us Montana poets a read, and leaving your imprint here. I read every comment, and enjoy them all.

barbara said...

I can see why you chose her work, There are some wonderful phrases here, and you've made more with your juxtapositions. I especially like the first two lines and "No one notices that the wild gold stalks trapped in a moment of wind curse and curse throughout the night"

Elizabeth said...

Brenda, loved where the images you chose took me. I've never done a cento poem before, but am fascinated with what everyone has done. This poem is about place and breathing it in, learning what it chooses to teach. Terrific working and your respect for the poet shines through all of it,


Mr. Walker said...

Brenda, that first stanza is so good it could be a poem in its own right. I also love "we might be left to discover the sound / to forget in different ways." - brilliant combination of lines.


Anonymous said...

Interesting choice for your borrowed writer. I'm not familiar with him and plan to do a bit of treasure hunting. Your line choices sparked the interest. Thanks.

Donald Harbour said...

Well, now I am going to have to get Smoker's book of poetry. Although I have never read her work, if I had closed my eyes and heard your Cento
read aloud I believe I would have known a westerner and a child of the land had written it. Good use of the work. I enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

Brenda, I am going to go read M.L. Smoker. Her lines are gems and I love her imagery.

The way you strung these together works very well. My favorite is the second stanza: "we are the kids outside the bingo hall/my cries combust into purple flames/swallowed by glaciers the size of ten thousand buffalo". I think all of us have felt this way sometime in our lives...as outsiders that no one is listening to.