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Story of the Man Waking Up(a cento)

Srinivas “Srini” Mandavilli


On a day like any other day,

like “yesterday or centuries before”,

dogwood blossoms drift down at evening

like the involuted tantrums of spring and summer.


I stand on the stump of a child, I cannot leave.

It is the place where I must stand and fall,

and have become like other men at forty—

more fathers than sons themselves now.


And the face of that father,

or my father through me, his legendary

head with eyes like ripening fruit

asking—are you happy?


And I, this print of mine, that has kept its color,

alive through so many cleanings; this dull null

navy I wear to work, and wear from work, and so

to my bed, and so to my grave, with no complaints.


In the clear light, I ate the day deliberately, that its tang

might quicken me all into verb, pure verb,

searching the starry sky, waiting for the world to end.

On the day of my death, there will not be a comet.


Suddenly I realize that if stepped out

of my body, I would break into blossom,

from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom,

to sweet impossible blossom.


Sources for the cento:

“The Man on the Tower,” Charles Rafferty; “Disappearances,” Vijay Seshadri; “Watching Dogwood Blossoms Fall in a Parking Lot of Route 46,” August Kleinzahler; “The Woodlot,” Amy Clampitt; “Easter Morning,” AR Ammons; “Men at forty,” Donald Justice; “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” Rainer Maria Rilke; “The Woman at Washington Zoo,” Randall Jarrell; “Oysters,” Seamus Heaney; “Halley’s Comet,” Stanley Kunitz; “Blessing,” James Wright; “From Blossoms,” Li-Young Lee.

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