A JC cento, or why does silence become a shard?

i’ve been tracing the shape of my lifeline through livestock-stalls and mud, grown foreign and faded. persistent, persistent, echoing… all the years we’ve travelled separate ways, how hungry we were! an icy lemon kakigori pride melting on my thirsty tongue.

how come we have so little to say? we bury the ashes, looking for stubborn, black swishy strands of memories. river stones. i discarded that part of my spirit, keeping my pack light, barely noticing the curve.

how many ripples are made through time? alone we are helpless, but together a fury! heart and feet beat in sync, the aspiration to be! what remains elusive is the sense of freedom i keep thinking will come with nightfall, illuminating nothing, everything.

and if, and if, i can’t, won’t be there for the rally, for the wake, for the forgetting, why prolong history?

what comes is only stillness: a row of gravestones made of miraculous mirrors.

A cento, crafted with lines from

“Tegami” by Carolyn Nakagawa
A Hundred and Fifty Pounds” by Michael Prior, Burning Province (McClelland & Stewart, 2020)
“For Shizu” by Mona Oikawa, All Names Spoken (Sister Vision Press, 1992)
Echoes” by Laura Fukumoto (Feminist Space Camp, 2019)
Wheels by Roy K. Kiyooka (Coach House Press, 1982)
alley/bird/ally” by Hiromi Goto (CBC Books, 2020)
“powell street” by Rita Wong, Forage (Nightwood Editions, 2007)
Offerings” by Joy Kogawa (1985)
“there was nothing festive about The Fair At The PNE in 1942” by Erica Hiroko, emerge18 anthology (SFU Publications, 2018)
“in flight” by Roy Miki, Saving Face (Turnstone Press, 1991)
untitled” by Angela Marian May
untitled” by Shō Tanaka

E. Hiroko Isomura is a west coast writer who lives on unceded qiqéyt, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ territories. Selected by Room for their 2021 Emerging Writer Award and winner of Briarpatch's 2019 Writing In The Margins contest for creative non-fiction, her work appears in Canadian literary mags, zines, and on the internet. She's currently developing a collection of essays, a chapbook, and a newsletter called ritualistic.