Creating the cento

One Poem by Meryl Natchez

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A single bending leaf

Then I am another night wandering the desire field—
as though the mud were a sky
                                                              thinking: if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.

Desire is the mouth, the manipulating heart,
the air like a net about to release
petal by petal to the hidden ground
black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass,
bathed in light and air.
See me rise like a flame
with the fluted silk of my tail.

What a sublime end of one’s body, what an enskyment; what a life after death
unbounded edgeless           in that brilliant intersection
after the hard wind has lifted something away.
Look up and the horizon line has gone.

The pleasure
built into a single bending leaf
means nothing you do or have done
needs to be explained.

This is a love poem. Can you taste it?


“A single bending leaf” is a cento composed of lines from the following poets in order: Natalie Diaz, Thomas Kinsella, Mary Oliver (two lines), Ellen Bryant Voigt, Ada Limón, Li-Young Lee, Joseph Stroud, Linda Gregg (two lines), Dorianne Laux, Robinson Jeffers, Mark Doty, Cornelius Eady, Forrest Gander, Tony Hoagland (two lines), Stephen Dunn (two lines), and Maxine Kumin.



Meryl NatchezMeryl Natchez’s fourth book, Catwalk, received an Indie Best Book 2020 Award from Kirkus Reviews. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, LA Review of Books, Hudson Review, Poetry Northwest, Literary Matters, The American Journal of Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, ZYZZYVA, and others. She is chair of Marin Poetry Center and blogs at

Photo of Meryl Natchez and header photo of the cento creation process in action by Suz Lipman. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.