Note: I originally wrote this poem as a response to a workshop writing prompt to create a cento, a poem composed of lines from other poets. The cento I created, below, consists soley of ending lines from published poems. This exercise, however, also inspired me to embark on a journey to use each of these ending lines as the beginning line in a poem of my own. I’ll be posting those poems over the coming weeks and tag them as “last to first” so it’s easy to identify which poems are a part of that project.

Finale Cento

I stop somewhere waiting for you
And miles to go before I sleep.
That’s all that I remember,
The place where the sidewalk ends.
Free beer, I’ll say, though there is no free beer.
So I just listened, my pen in the air.
The door of compassion
Which sets us free
Shall be lifted – nevermore!

It asked a crumb of me.
Here is a strange and bitter crop:
Their eyes, a torture of unendurable beauty,
For nothing now can ever come to any good
Laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite
Of the forming crystal.
Do not wound me because you wound yourself.
The only condition is your being there and being watchful.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance
In every last part of our body
To make music in the heart
Like a shadow or a friend.

 

If you’re interested in where the lines originally came from, here you go:

I stop somewhere waiting for you (Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”)
And miles to go before I sleep (Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”)
That’s all that I remember (Countee Cullen, “Incident”)
The place where the sidewalk ends (Shel Silverstein, “Where the Sidewalk Ends”)
Free beer, I’ll say, though there is no free beer (Diane Seuss, “Free Beer”)
So I just listened, my pen in the air (Mary Oliver, “I Happen to be Standing”)
the door of compassion (Thich Nhat Hanh, “Call Me by My True Names”)
which sets us free (Maya Angelou, “Touched by an Angel”)
Shall be lifted – nevermore! (Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven”)
It asked a crumb of me (Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers”)
Here is a strange and bitter crop (Abel Meeropol, “Strange Fruit”)
their eyes, a torture of unendurable beauty (Martin Ott, “Interrogator’s Notebook”)
For nothing now can ever come to any good (W H Auden, “Funeral Blues”)
laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite (Joy Harjo, “Perhaps the World Ends Here”)
of the forming crystal (Denise Levertov, “Making Peace”)
do not wound me because you wound yourself (Pablo Neruda, “The Well”)
The only condition is your being there and being watchful (Wendall Berry, “Being Watchful”)
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance (Khalil Gibran, “Death”)
in every last part of our body (Saint Symeon, “We awaken in Christ’s body”)
to make music in the heart (Howard Thurman, “The Work of Christmas”)
like a shadow or a friend (Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness”)