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A Poem for #TheSealeyChallenge


Cento: Dear River Dear Creek Dear Damned


To answer your question, yes
My people are the people

Por el East River y el Bronx
My empire made me

Look out, but don’t mistake it for forward
When the ocean comes to harvest

The green drapery is like a sheet of water
In the afternoon I see myself at night

This is my box of twilight and inside 
No one knew or at least

It is possible to rest here
The cicadas are so loud and large

Each sun sinks itself
Wears white & turns

Dawn again. And this is what we wake to
The sky black with swans—

                Okay fuck it, I’m on one.


This is a cento of first lines from poems I read during #TheSealeyChallenge in 2020 and 2021. In a couple of cases, I changed the verb numbers to agree with the nouns. For the challenge, which was started by the poet Nicole Sealey, you read a collection of poetry a day for the month of August. I've done it a couple of years, and it's super fun. Starting August 1st, follow the hashtag #TheSealeyChallenge on social media, and get all kinds of great reading suggestions. More information here.

The Poetry Friday roundup for July 29 takes place at the blog of Marcie Flinchum Atkins. She's all about #TheSealeyChallenge, too!


Sources for the cento

Title: Kelly, Donika. “Hymn.” The Renunciations, Graywolf, 2021, p. 47. 

Line 1. Choi, Franny. “Afterlife.” Soft Science, Alice James, 2019, p. 20.

  1. Wilkinson, Caki. “Obstinate Gospel.” The Survival Expo, Persea, 2021, p. 49. 
  2. García Lorca, Federico. “Oda a Walt Whitman.” Poeta en Nueva York. 1940. La Moderna, 2018, p. 143.
  3. Akbar, Kaveh. “My Empire.” Pilgrim Bell, Graywolf, 2021, p. 24. 
  4. Hunt, Erica. “Instructions for the next chapter.” Jump the Clock: New & Selected Poems, Nightboat, 2020, p. 183. 
  5. Francisco, Ariel. “Harvest Moon—The Tide Rises Almost to My Door.” A Sinking Ship Is Still a Ship, Burrow Press, 2020, p. 37. 
  6. Trethewey, Natasha. “Mana Prieto.” Thrall. 2012. Mariner, 2015, p. 37. 
  7. Blanco, Richard. “Sitting on My Mother’s Porch in Westchester, Florida.” Looking for the Gulf Motel, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012, p. 27. 
  8. Salazar, C.T. “American Cavewall Sonnet [This is my box of twilight and inside].” American Cavewall Sonnets, Bull City, 2021, p. 5. 
  9. Gay, Ross. “ode to buttoning and unbuttoning my shirt.” Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015, p. 7. 
  10. Young, Al. “Poetry.” Geography of the Near Past, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976, p. 71. 
  11. VanderHart, Hannah. “Locusts or Complaint as Protest.” What Pecan Light, Bull City, 2021, p. 32. 
  12. Nezhukumatathil, Aimee. “Bengal Tiger.” Oceanic, Copper Canyon, 2018, p. 67. 
  13. Harvey, Yona. “Even Disasters.” Hemming the Water, Four Way, 2013, p. 35. 
  14. Murillo, John. “On Prosody.” Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, Four Way, 2020, p. 67. 
  15. Nguyen, Diana Khoi. “The Birdhouse in the Jungle.” Ghost of, Omnidawn, 2018, p. 41.
  16. Ginsberg, Aeon. [“Okay fuck it, I’m On One”]. Greyhound, Noemi, 2020, p. 21.

Photo by ST.