Cento for 17 Mutuals

by Nicole Tallman

I swallowed a pill; I swallowed a pine cone.
The world ends like an almond tree pulled by its roots.
I don’t want to drive my car into that tree anymore.

Cold spot near mom’s favorite recliner,
I’ve nothing to offer but
that deer there, cracked at the spine, oozing onto roadside rock.

My days are numbered, just like yours.
I flinch at each number like a gun has gone off.
I’ll be dead soon enough—

cradled above the earth, rocked gently to sleep
to a primal white sky, wheeling on.
I worried there’d be nothing more than a silver vortex.

In places like this, I am a ghost,
a serpent that rattles against silent stone floors,
in a room with glimpses of yesterday, displayed along alabaster walls.

Once I watched a boy disappear under the surface a lake.
Some words are too big to mean anything.
I’m saving the story for the afterlife.

There’s no need to close the door on your way out.

(In order of appearance, this cento borrows lines from: Samantha DeFlitch (“Dogs on the Roof,” Issue 19); Jared Beloff (“Living Happily at the End of the World,” Issue 20); Madeleine Corley (“Theft,” Issue 16); Lannie Stabile (“brother, brother, brother,” Issue 18); Cyndie Randall (“Your Dreams and Your Light Are Too Ordinary, My Love,” Issue 18); Francine Witte (“Why Do You Ask?,” Issue 12); Lynne Schmidt (“Learning German,” Issue 19); Andrew Bertaina (“In Spain,” Issue 20); Aleah Dye (“Body Heat,” Issue 15); Rachael Crosbie (“Versions of Fire,” Issue 17); C. Cimmone (“Chains,” Issue 20); Damian Rucci (“In Places Like This,” Issue 16); Ayesha Asad (“Teatime and Boiled Ginger,” Issue 13); Lindsey Heatherly (“Routine,” Issue 14); Danielle Rose (“Diving,” Issue 17); Leigh Chadwick (“Author Writes About Herself in the Third Person or: The Poem of Tiny Clouds,” Issue 20); Andrew Bertaina (“In Spain,” Issue 20); Marissa Glover (“Homeland,” Issue 16).

Nicole Tallman (she/her) is the Poetry Ambassador for Miami-Dade County, Associate Editor for South Florida Poetry Journal and Interviews Editor for The Blue Mountain Review. Her debut chapbook, Something Kindred, is forthcoming in January 2022 from The Southern Collective Experience (SCE) Press. Find her recent poems in Wrongdoing Magazine and trampset. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @natallman and at nicoletallman.com.

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