Us, On Any Given Day: A Cento

smell of jackfruit & sweet orange
semolina cake under crackling palms 
glass shattered 
into harmless pebbles, puddled 
at the curb 

fast hands,
a bright light, a magnificent planet 
dappled sunlight on the lawn
or pots of darkness
like salt 

a pin in night’s blanket,
the shrewd, the nimble, 
the saguaro
and its breathing skin, the field

I want an acre
with which to do nothing 

          “Spirit House (one)" by Maw Shein Win 
          "Temperance" Claire Meuschke
          “L.A. by Night” by Elizabeth Alexander
          “Choke” by Eileen Myles
          “Letters I Don’t Send” #4 by Kenzie Allen
          “Odessa (Neon Moon)” by Kenzie Allen

Charlotte Hamrick

3 Questions for Charlotte

What was your process for creating these works?

My process for the photo was spontaneous. I often photograph nature in my backyard and I'm especially fond of photographing my Magnolia tree. It was a small tree when I moved into this house and now it's huge with a wonderfully gnarly trunk. I have many photos of it and the flowers. This particular flower had fallen onto the ground in the dirt and browned leaves. It shone like a beacon against the dark background. The petals were bruised and marked yet it was still beautiful, much like we are bruised and marked by our life journey but we are still beautiful. For me, it represents the parallel journeys of nature and human life.

My process for the Cento began with the first line "smell of jackfruit & sweet orange / semolina cake under crackling palms" which grabbed my attention with it's lush and lusty imagery. The next line "glass shattered / into harmless pebbles / puddled / at the curb" grabbed my attention with a solid but shattered picture in my head. I happened to read both poems the same day and thought about how diametrically opposite the images are yet I felt a kinship with each. It made me think of how long-term relationships go through periods of lusty lushness and periods of shattered dreams or shattered expectations. From that concept I built the poem, adding lines that showed the myriad experiences of a relationship, how turbulent it can be, and how fulfilling it can be.

What is the significance of the forms/genres you chose?

I love photography. I love looking at it and creating it. I love how, in many cases, you have to slow down and look close. Macro photography is my favorite but I am an amateur that doesn't have the necessary equipment for macro. But I do take lots of close up photos like this Magnolia flower. I love observing the detail of each subject, all the bits and pieces that make up the whole.

For me the Cento is admiration for the poetry of other poets and a way to honor them while creating a completely new poem. I often jot down lines from poems I read that speak to me, whether it be through subject, imagery, or skill. I especially love beautiful language that evokes a memory or a feeling. I love language that surprises, word choices that surprise, but it must make sense to me. It must be readable and relatable.

What is the significance of these works to you?

Much of my writing is about exploring and attempting to understand the relationships between people, and between people and nature. My photography is about taking time to observe and document. I think both of these pieces accomplish these objectives.

Charlotte Hamrick’s poetry, prose, and photography has been published in numerous online and print journals and anthologies, recently including Emerge Journal, Fevers of the Mind, Love in the Time of Covid Chronicle, and New World Writing. She’s had nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and was a Finalist for the 15th Glass Woman Prize and for Micro Madness 2020. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of rescued pets where she sometimes does things other than read and write.

Social Media Links: 

Twitter: @CharlotteHam504

Instagram: @Starlightgrrl

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