A Community Collaboration: Centos

Jet Fuel Review Issue #15 Cover

Inside our new Spring 2018 issue of Jet Fuel Review (with cover art by Australian artist Jim Tsinganos), you will find a special section that specifically highlights a particular style of poem known as the cento, which is a unique form in which an author creates a piece by stitching together lines borrowed only from the works of others. To help kick-off the launch celebration of our 15th issue, we’ve asked some of our own to join in on the fun and construct a piece or two themselves.

Presented below is a portion of the Special Section’s introduction as written by JFR Assistant Managing Editor, Zakiya Cowan, followed by a collection of wonderful centos written by not only the editors of Jet Fuel Review but also some members of the Lewis University community at large. A few of the writers included here are experienced veterans of the genre, others are amateurs, and some have never written a poem in their adult life. However, each piece remains a showcase of talent and form that we are incredibly excited to share with you.

Read on,

— Michael Lane, Blog Editor

The Jet Fuel Review editors are excited to share with you the noteworthy gem of Issue 15, our cento collection. “Cento” is Latin for “patchwork,” and in terms of poetic form, a cento is a “patchwork” of lines taken from various works. According to the introduction of Hosidius Geta’s Medea:” A Virgilian Cento, by Joseph J. Mooney, Geta’s “Medea” is the first recorded cento, dating back between 200 C.E. and 300 A.D. Classified as a Virgilian cento, “Medea” is composed of lines from works by the ancient Roman poet, Virgil. A Frankenstein-like composition, each line is carefully sutured to the next in order to create thought-provoking images and metaphors that seamlessly weld with one another, and ultimately crafts a piece that pays homage to other’s work while creating a new text.

We hope you both enjoy and appreciate the thoughtful artistry that is involved when constructing the cento, and hopefully discover a newfound love for this longstanding, intricate form.

Read on,

— Zakiya Cowan, Assistant Managing Editor

The following writers, whose stunning work can be found below, contributed to this post:

  • Ashley Zizich
  • Bree Scott
  • Michael Lane
  • Miguel Soto
  • Kayla Chambers
  • Dominique Dusek
  • Samantha Moffett
  • Zakiya Cowan
  • Christian Mietus
  • Dr. Clare Rothschild

Ashley Zizich

Ashley Zizich

Ashley is a senior studying English with a concentration in literature and a minor in professional writing. Her love for books and poetry fuels her desire to become an editor or copy editor after graduation. Some of her favorite writers include Sylvia Plath and F. Scott Fitzgerald. When she isn’t reading, she enjoys going on adventures with her two children and gardening.

Who Is My Grief: A Cento

My face resembles your face:
young seeds that have not seen the sun.
The two of us, beautifully balanced;
but to think; I’ll never hear your voice.

Who is my grief?
Grief is an unwanted guest, for it stays in
willing tears, and unforbidden sighs, as
I have not been able to touch the destruction within me.

Who is my grief?
When I was seven: it was
music. When soft voices die
gone far away into the silent land.

Come back in tears:
pulse for pulse, breath for breath.
Curse me, bless me now, with your fierce tears, I pray:
Who is my grief?


(Stephanie DeMartino, Emily Dickinson, Audre Lorde, Sora Lynn, Mewlana Jalauddin Rumi, Christina Rossetti, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dylan Thomas, William Wordsworth)

Call Me Free: A Cento

I felt a funeral in my brain-
lie still, lie still, my breaking heart-
my drums beat out the message:
This is a torch song.

Touch me and you’ll burn-
moon marked and touched by sun-
my silent heart, lie still and break,
and none can give me any word by Wait.

There are so many roots to the tree of anger-
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to see through a glass which will not shine-
I am incomplete.

I am a caged bird standing on a grave of dreams-
I am a woman, and dusty, standing among new affairs.
I mount through malice of the needle’s eye-
Call me false, or call me free


(Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickinson, Audre Lorde, Sylvia Plath, Christina Rossetti)

Bree Scott

Bree Scott

Bree Scott is a senior at Lewis University studying English professional and creative writing, with a minor in social media. Her poems have been published in College of DuPage’s The Prairie Light Review and Lewis University’s Voices. Bree plans to dedicate more of her time to publishing her poetry after graduation (and hopefully go camping more to get inspired).

Sleep Walking: A Cento 

Necklace of stones. Skin of a plum. Rotting teeth.
Cover me with a sheet so clean: my mother
could have used it to tuck me in. For every bird
there is a stone thrown at a bird & what cuts
is what’s overlooked, the silver of the unseen.

My nap-time lids: switch flipped off inside
a woman who couldn’t take no more. Same
hole bandaged over & over, not a wound
but its absence—of all the silent killers
none is weaker than my smile.

Nothing bends absence bright
into a silence: peaches bloom
even in the dark.


(Chase Twichell, Jamaal May, Jericho Brown, Maggie Smith, A.E. Stallings, Cyrus Cassells, Nickole Brown, Lucy Wainger, David Feinstein, Dan Beachy-Quick)

Michael Lane

Michael Lane

Michael is a senior at Lewis University who is taking up studies in public relations/advertising but also minoring in marketing. Since he was a young boy, Michael always loved movies and the business surrounding them. One of Michael’s biggest heroes was the late, great Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, who inspired Michael to start writing about movies himself. Film may be his number one hobby, but while away from school and work, he also loves reading comic books, playing video games, and spending time with his friends and loved ones. This is his first-ever poem.

Preying Mantis

We’re lying on our backs in a field
like a discarded coin
the reflecting pool has swallowed.

I think I’m with a friend,
but I don’t know this person.

He is the bee
disguised as a mantis
eating their prayers.


(Natalie Crick, José Luis Gutiérrez, C.J. Miles, Cara Eileen Peterhansel, Maggie Smith, Kenyatta Rogers)

Miguel Soto

Miguel Soto

Miguel Soto is an English literature and language major at Lewis University. He has worked as the Jet Fuel Review’s Special Sections Editor. Currently, he is working as Prose Editor, Book Review Editor, Marketing & Development Editor, Assistant Blog Editor, and Art & Design Editor. His new-found fascination for poetry is allowing him to explore creative mediums to express consciousness raising in areas dealing with political identity. In his free time, he likes to read poetry and essays, watch bad indie films, discover new music, even though he exclusively leaves songs he knows the lyrics to on repeat, and drink mass amounts of coffee as a hobby.

Going Under:
a cento

Sick of being the damn bridge—
que verguenza—
I asked the white Lord Jesus,

“What gift would give them the gift to be gifted?
To be safe?”

I am merely posing for a photograph
because how I spoke was a linguist’s treat—
my tongue slips and licks itself 

into my big fat mouth,
mouthing yes yes yes
wonder if he would at least give the money 

that makes sculptures of our lives.
I know now that once I longed to be white.

I stare at my reflection in the mirror:
I don’t want this man, who cut off his hair,
taking the power 

from the lips of a woman.
Do not remember
the colonizer in me. 

I would like to be a [muralist mixing color]
poet if I will be useful to change the shape of things;
force them to chant; tell the truth about me—

Pluck out a tiny nopalito
from a past that’s rooted in pain—

no quieren que siga
el llorido del mar, el respiro del aire.
Make me walk on the turbid waters under the arches.


(Francisco X. Alarcón, “from Of Dark Love: I”; Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”; Gloria Anzaldúa, “Nopalitos,” “The Homeland, Aztlan,” “Yo No Fui, Fue Tete”; James Baldwin, “The Giver (for Berdis)”; Lorna Dee Cervantes, “Refugee Ship”; Chrystos “He Saw”; Sandra Cisneros, “Tango for the Broom,” “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me”; Martín Espada, “Revolutionary Spanish Lesson”; Ray González, “Crossing New Mexico with Weldon Knees,” “These Days”; Juan Felipe Herrera, “Borderbus,” “I Am Merely Posing for a Photograph”; Langston Hughes, “Song for a Dark Girl”; Audre Lorde, “Hanging Fire,” “Movement Song,” “Sisters in Arms”; Cherríe Moraga, “For the Color of My Mother,” “The Welder”; Rosario Morales, “I Am What I Am”; Kate Rushin, “The Bridge Poem,” “The Fired Poem: Last Letter From a Typical (Unemployed) Black Professional Woman”; Nellie Wong, “When I Was Growing Up”)

Kayla Chambers

Kayla Chambers

A student at Lewis University, Kayla Chambers works on the university’s newspaper, The Flyer, and the student-run online literary journal, Jet Fuel Review, as a layout editor. She’s been published in two issues of Windows Fine Arts Magazine for creative nonfiction and poetry works and has a forthcoming publication in Illinois’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction (Z Publishing House).

Melodic Process
a cento

I spin slick green
ghosts. I spin mixed
modern menagerie.
I spin quick as a firefly,
endlessly tuning up—a
surge shooting across
the pavement. All those
bone hands will clap,
awaken to static. Each,
in their aching ways,
a tragic orchestra.


(Lines and fragments are taken from Jet Fuel Review Issues #13 and #14)

Dominique Dusek

Dominique Dusek

Dominique Dusek graduated from Lewis University with her bachelor’s degree in creative and professional writing. For four semesters, she has served as an editor for the Jet Fuel Review, assuming a variety of roles including Fiction Editor, Non-Fiction Editor, Submissions Manager, and Assistant Managing Editor.

There Is a Music
            -a cento
At ten o’clock, a drizzling hour,

I whisper goodbye,

but it’s too late.

She’s singing alone

like music in the distance.

She’s singing alone

in a different language

that had come unstrung

lace handkerchief balled up in her plump hand.

There is a music to this sadness,

dirtied by our endless stream of words.

She’s singing alone—

a song replaying itself in the dark.

A tiny tear between this world and that.


(Phillip Levine, Eamon Grennon, Silvia Curbelo , Saul Williams, Mark Bibbins, Adrienne Rich, Rafael Campo, Nickole Brown)


Samantha Moffett

Sam Moffett

Samantha Moffett is a junior at Lewis University and is double majoring in secondary education and English. She works as a tutor at the Lewis University Writing Center and is the Assistant Fiction & Nonfiction Editor and the Assistant Art & Design Editor for Jet Fuel Review.

Persephone: A Cento

Persephone, I think, was drawn like this:
the flush loveliness of summer,
the hills like a green sea.

An outstretched hand –
the tongues of Hell,
the shifting shadows
carrying a singed fume
of things beautiful, noble and wrong.

Inside the divine spiral –
the split pomegranate.

Within my hand –
the clotted seeds.
Desire runs.

Stained with red juice
I hide myself within my flower,
your knuckles in my hair.
Oh God, what am I?


(Mary Karr; Joan Aleshire; Sylvia Plath; Carol Tufts; Edgar Allan Poe; Chantelle Ribeiro; Thomas Hardy; Sasha Pimentel; Ralph Burns; Louise Glück; Emily Dickinson; Juan Felipe Herrera)

Playing House: A Cento

Let’s pretend we’re a happy family.
Small house,
big lot,
a creek and apple trees.

In the dining room,
birthday cake.
Guests push their chairs back from the table
while the strawberry ice cream melts
and the whiskey evaporates.

I can see your face in my hands –
you knew the odds of failure from the start.

So now, I wait.
I endure.
We can’t bring ourselves to leave this house.

We make this love.
When we sleep my body makes promises but
I don’t feel any different from who I used to be.

Let your eyes adjust,
bolt the door.

There is no safety.


(Heather June Gibbons; Kenyatta Rogers; Alison Thumel; Jessica Goodfellow; Hilary Melton; Naoko Fujimoto; D. Allen; Caitlin Connelly; Karen Terrey; Christine Pacyk & Virginia Smith Rice; D. Allen; Shivanee Ramlochan; Alexandra van de Kamp; Emily Vizzo; Maggie Smith; Karen Terry; Pablo Otavalo; Marcene Gandolfo; Jenny Bhatt)

Zakiya Cowan

Zakiya Cowan

Zakiya Cowan is junior at Lewis University majoring in creative & professional writing, with a minor in Spanish. She is also the Student Worker for the university’s English Studies Department and a proud sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated. Her dedication and passion for her position as an editor for Jet Fuel Review stem from her desire bring forth fresh, innovative, and diverse voices to the world of publishing. Some of her favorite writers include Toni Morrison, Gloria Anzaldua Maya Angelou, Junot Diaz, Bell Hooks, and Angie Thomas. In her free time, Zakiya enjoys reading, listening to her Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, and watching reruns of Kitchen Nightmares.

Epitaph for a Perished Child

She is girl. She is gravel. She is grabbed. She is grabbed like / handfuls of gravel / Dead empress of winged things / her nights of nursery rhymes and sorrow / strapped into black / Across the field birds fly like storm shook shadows /of unrelenting waves / sending puddles of twilight / into sunless skies / Oh, little birds, don’t you know? / for every loved child, a child broken, bagged, sunk in a lake / the bones confess / They do this for hours, days / lost in a valley of rot.


(Emily Jungmin Yoon, Amy Gerstler, Meg Kearny, Carl Phillips, Cyrus Cassells, Nikole Brown, Maggie Smith, Yusef Komunyakaa, Hieu Mihn Nguyen, David Feinstein)

Christian Mietus

Christian Mietus

Christian is a freshman at Lewis University who is an English major with a minor in film studies. His main priority is to develop himself as an individual and film connoisseur, which is his current purpose in life. In his free time, he appreciates and dissects cinema as well as consistently rate and review cinema. Some of his favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, John Cassavettes, Ingmar Bergman, Kenji Mitzoguchi, Bela Tar, Carl Th. Dreyer, Wim Wenders, Andrzej Wajda, and Yasujiro Ozu. He also appreciates different art forms, such as music and literature. Some of his favorite artists are Tom Waits, Can, Aphex Twin, and Quasimoto. Christian hopes to continue expanding his skills as a writer and to encourage others to do so as well

Untitled Cento

A blaze from the forgotten,
a stark fresh shine.
In thatched-roof cottages,
eating their prayers.
Wind and reeds and rain thundering,
lurking softly and surreal.
The brisk sounds a poet makes,
a goodbye, like a dead man picking fruit in a blizzard.
Forgotten, outside, rain patters the tulips.


(Heather June Gibbons, Virginia Konchan, Cara Eileen Peterhansel, Hannah Warren, Raymond Farr, Natalie Crick)

Dr. Clare Rothschild

Dr. Clare Rothschild

Clare K. Rothschild is a Professor of Scripture Studies in the Department of Theology at Lewis University. She earned her MA from Harvard University and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Her research interests include the Luke-Acts, Q, Hebrews, the Apostolic Fathers, and the Muratorian Fragment. Rothschild is the author of titles including Luke-Acts and the Rhetoric of History, Baptist Traditions and Q, Hebrews as Pseudepigraphon, Paul in Athens, and New Essays on the Apostolic Fathers. She is now preparing a commentary on the Epistle of Barnabas for the Hermeneia series. She currently serves as Editor of Early Christianity as well as the SBL series, Writings of the Graeco-Roman World, and Supplements.

Immersion (Vergil’s Aeneid)

Under the brow of the fronting cliff is a cave of hanging rocks.
Within are fresh waters and seats in living stone,
a haunt of Nymphs.

And as, when tumult rises in a great nation,
the rabble rage angrily, and brands and stones fly,
madness lends arms.

When, on mountaintops, woodmen emulously strain
To overturn an ancient ash tree,
Hacked with blows of axe and iron.

Over the peaceful depths, a pair of serpents
breast the sea with endless coils
side by side making for shore.

With blazing eyes suffused with blood and fire
And quivering tongues that lick their hissing mouths,
Pale at the sight, we scatter.

Spellbound a bewildered shepherd hears the roar from a rock’s lofty peak.
Descending as guided by a god,
He makes his way amid fire and foes.

Shaking myself from
Death’s twin, sleep,
Let me rage before I die.

Do the gods light this fire in our hearts
Or does each person’s mad desire become a god?


(Fragments and lines are taken from Virgil’s Aeneid, translated by H. Rushton Fairclough)


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