The Poetry Project

The Nightfields by Joanna Klink

A Cento Review by Eloisa Amezcua

This is not a review of The Nightfields by Joanna Klink. Instead, this is a cento composed entirely of lines from within the collection. With a pencil in hand looking for ways into the world on the page, I noticed over and over that the book is already an analysis of itself. The poems are highly introspective, singularly and collectively. Instead of pointing to this and dissecting it and telling you what I think it means (to me), I invite you to allow the book to speak to you as it spoke (and speaks) to me, to us.

I. You

If you were given a burden, if you were given a rock, an omen, would you know it too could go missing, it too could be broken. If you have grieved you have loved. Why would you root yourself when the rain could, any moment, coax light into color. The most fragile thought can live inside you for months, and you carry on as if it weren’t real. There is a way to live not racked by guesswork—simply to pivot and claim one direction, to make your path felt. You were given a book and inside the book was a road leading to orchards and snow, tiny dustings of sun. Did you notice the ditches filling with fog. Crushing beauty is laid every day without scorn at your feet. What will you admit into your life? You do no more than feel what you have. A feeling is a grave into which you sink, forgetting it was ever a grave, forgetting even your own ill-equipped unhappiness. Where are your convictions? Better to collapse into what you love than to ask for so little. What happened to the long hours in which you lived. Each day you get a small thing right. Every night you touch a boundary you don’t understand. If you stare at something for a long time you may come to trust it. What you see has moved a long way off, gray rains brushing over a lake. It is possible to walk far into another and find only yourself. You have stood and watched the safety in you scatter. What you feared most was already brought back to you, through quiet, without force or pain. It is costly to love without giving over to love. There are always moments when no one speaks. Without silence you would be thoroughly broken. Some mornings the roads almost float, the weeds in the fields wiry fistfuls of sun. From here you can begin your day again, more grateful than thankless. Whether or not you sing. What was ever so important to you you left your daily life to heed it? The shift to peace is soft, barely there. Abandon the rest. You are the whole shape of sound. Carry yourself into sky. Mercy grows into you. You touch hidden stars as you turn the pages of a book that cannot end. Your life is open to you.


I don’t know when it began, the will to sort moment from moment, to hold on by saying I can’t care about the red maple stripped of color, I choose the rain disappearing at my feet. I am unable to picture anything so whole it doesn’t crush what’s missing. When I step out of the action of my life, I see with speechlessness. When the wind pushes branches in and out of shade it is an opening, as every small gesture towards another person is incomprehensibly alive. Each day something forgotten or unsaid or just missed. No more stalemates of feeling. I will slip into corner tables just to watch people speak. I am listening to you. I am without goals or plans. What then is mine. When I move toward you it is with everything I have lived, emptied out. I cannot tell what is unbearable in me from what is opening. I go on trying. Devotion is full of arrows. Better to discourage the future by making no plans. Better to awake at night in sympathy with clocks than to wander vaguely through days. Why should I have been surprised. My life is here, in this small room, and like you I am waiting to know—but there is no time to wait for what has happened. If there is a right action of the throat, it is to say: I tried, I stayed a long time there. Every day of my life now I cannot understand. Some change is too great. There is always the deep need of something gone. And my arms just a motion in the great soundlessness of sky. When I was young I wanted the giddy pain that came with love but now would give anything for understanding, one person sensing the other, and joy that rushes in for no reason. I was only a country, a body folding nightly into its tides. I was more diminished than I knew. I was given a book. I was no more than bones, cloud—I was only rain floating. Nothing will hold me up like that again. But knowing what to hope for is steady work. Everything I have created with my life and everything I have managed to wreck is mere shyness. I hold an account so quiet the room’s inlet softness spins around me. I am always too close. I am not sure I will ever be wholly alive. A breath beneath rooms full of paper. It gets harder to live—the losses more thorough, more painful, borne in your chest along the roads. I am, since you turned away from me, the most delicate book. (Some days I am small beyond measure. Some days I am the fence the fields the trees.) I ask not how long but who am I that walks in this direction. Here is the day, still to be lived.


We hardly know who we are but we go on living. It is hard to shape oneself to oneself. We go a long way to take hold of ourselves, dreaming and acting. We were given a book, and the book stripped the world down to dirt and to rain, captivity, color. Dusk fell every night. Things fall. We understood we were here for a reason but could not tell what that was. Who are we, on the ground, below the flawless lights of sky. We are vast afterthoughts, bristling stewards of flight. We throw away things of great value and feel confused. Unprepared as we are to lose anything. It is enough that we crave objects, that we are always looking for a way out of pain. Or the way we will not forget what has happened to us. And still we hoard and lay blame, we take what we need. Why should we fear our disappearance. Sometimes we mourn even without cause. But our grief is clear, and alive. How else would we learn but force. What is beyond task and future sits right before us, endlessly worthy. What does it mean to go on. What does it mean to have never felt at home. We seek the dark—certain things we reveal only in the dark. What if darkness is no mirror, no scar. Perhaps we listen, not knowing what we even wish to hear. Still—we are faithful. As one thing is entrance unto another the dark moon becomes new. We may hold our heads in our hands, neither moving nor opening. There are no empty hopes. Please. Give us birds. Welcome and farewell.

#262 — Fall 2020