Cento – after WG Sebald’s ‘Rings of Saturn’

Form for All: Collage and the Art of the Cento

Samuel Peralta:

“A collage is an artistic technique, whereby a piece of artwork is assembled from fragments of art from numerous sources, creating a new whole.”

Here is my collage taken from WG Sebald’s “Rings of Saturn”.

I set off to walk in the hope of dispelling the emptiness…
under the sign of the Dog Star…

the colourless patch of sky
framed in the window,
a reality I feared had vanished forever
draped with black netting

the body is open to contemplation
this hand is most peculiar
Rembrant’s picture
proves on closer examination
more apparent then real
a transposition taken
from the anatomical atlas…

the white mist
clouds our brain

a grey, overcast day
soot up to the windows
the few passengers
sat in half light
facing the engine
so silent

From the footpath that runs
along grassy dunes
I have often found
tent-like shelters
along the pebble beach.
Out on the leaden-coloured sea
a sailing boat kept me company

i went to the edge of the cliff,
I was standing on perforated ground,
as it were, which might have given way
at any moment.

Far off in front of me
the rain clouds dispersed…

Darkness was falling
only the lighthouse…
still caught the last luminous rays…

Footsore and weary
I sat…


Autumn Simply…

NWCU Autumn Kick-Off Event: Freelink 22.09.12-23.09.12


There is a subtle shift in the light and the smell in the air. The nights lengthen. Spectacular sunsets paint the sky. Clouds begin to gather. The Equinox is so perfectly balanced with its promises of beginnings. For me autumn is a time of contemplation – a time to live in the imaginary and to dwell a while in my enchanted garden with all its melancholy blooms. I seek out fat paperbacks to curl up with, in the golden evening light. I remember how I used to gather hazelnuts and filberts from our hedge in another life. I sit and look at family albums, people who are gone now – passed away…

The sunset bounces off a portrait of my grandmother’s grandmother – she was beautiful, young and innocent – at sixteen she was married off. I look out of my window and take a photo of the light.

I think about an enchanted garden where all sentient creatures are happy. Nothing passes in the garden. It simply is…

Slip Alley XXIX

On a moonless evening
smart phone plays
a melancholy tune,
Sveta answers
with surprise, her editor
calling at dinner,
perhaps he’s lonely.

He tells her to pack a case,
light summer clothes,
and meet him at the airport
poste haste,
he has her passport with the visa,
the plane leaves in four hours.

Sveta packs reminiscing:
a scene unfolds, a restaurant
with palms and mahogany tables,
an altar by the door
with cognac bottles,
cigarettes, and dark chocolates,
rich red wallpaper
with a coin design
adorns the walls,
a band plays
the Internationale,
men in elegant suits dance
with young women
ruby lipped
in silk sheath dresses,
hushed conversations;
the great game,
the iron curtain’s fall,
the arrogance of the USA
and Diem’s assassination.

Her novella
is approaching its coda.
What remains is to tie
the threads
yet leave some hanging…

Her editor is clear on that,
not all should be resolved.
He has given her a tight deadline,
now he wants
her to go with him
on a holiday
to Hanoi when
time is running out.

She sighs.
She will tell him
at the airport
that the deadline
must be extended,
she cannot write
in a hotel room
away from home.


Somewhere else,
someone scribbles
on a napkin:
For each rival you eliminate
you shall receive
ten thousand dollars…

Slip Alley XXVIII

Sveta takes a long sip of tea,
Oolong Red Dragon, stares
at the screen, fixes a typo,
thinks of a name for
the taxi driver’s father
and continues…

“How so?” Ollie furrows his bow.
Greta leans forward, cleavage glistening,
says to Duc (the taxi driver’s father),
“He doesn’t know the rules.”

Ollie scratches Duc’s cat
under its chin,
“What rules, am I a mind reader now?
I am hunting a perp with red hair
and snake tattoos,
a murderer after you,
you said he’s here
in Hanoi…”

Duc grins,  tosses three I Ching coins,
three heads six times,
“most unusual,” he says. “Definitely
a journey across the water.”

“My friends tell me, someone
broke the rules, killed for pleasure…”

Greta winces, “I saw him
on a passing train, he is

Ollie’s phone chirps,
his woman offsider is
in Hanoi in secret,
staying at a boutique hotel…
she has texted saying
she just met a fascinating Japanese man
at the Temple of Literature,
he gave his name as Isamu,
she is meeting him for lunch.

Ollie arranges to meet his offsider
for dinner,
puts his phone away,
returns his attention to Duc
and Greta’s conversation. Seems
the net round red headed snake man
is well in place. Duc toasts him
with a beer and puts on a tape
with old revolutionary songs.

“This is my lucky day,”  Ollie thought.

Slip Alley XXVII

Ollie sits on the plane,
the aisle seat, Greta is curled up
leaning on the window, sleeping.
He wonders how some could sleep
so peacefully, he sighs and flicks
through the movies ….


Sveta cracks her knuckles,
rolls her shoulders,
stretches like a cat,
a tight band burns between
her shoulder blades,
she stoically types
fingers flying,
disregarding redlined typos…


Greta stands with Ollie
at Noi Bai Airport talking
on her mobile phone,
she turns to Ollie,
“Our taxi has just arrived,
he’ll drive us to the ferry in Haiphong
but first he wants to introduce you to
his father…”

The taxi driver greets Greta
with  kiss on each cheek,
he turns to Ollie saying,
“I speak English, I studied
at Berkley,” and warmly shakes
Ollie’s hand.

The driver phones ahead
while dodging snarly traffic:
handcarts, bicycles, motorbikes and cars,
he tells Ollie laughing,
“These Vietnamese must keep moving,
‘If you stop, you are dead!’ crazy people”.
“My father is waiting,
he has his favourite Hanoi beer,
he is an old patriot, remembers
student days with Uncle Ho,
my wife has cooked our lunch,
I hope you like seafood – soft shelled crab.”


They pull up in a narrow lane,
somewhere in the old quarter,
the driver unlocks a greenish gate,
which looks like it hadn’t been painted
since the American War,
inside there is a verdant courtyard
with orchids and large bonsais,
a petite tabby cat
rubs herself against Ollie’s ankles.
As he crouches to pat her,
he hears the driver’s father
“Welcome comrade, it seems
the endgame has begun.”

Startled, Ollie stands
and shakes the old man’s hand
inclining his head courteously,
the old man laughs handing Ollie
an ice cold glass of beer.

Slip Alley XXVI

Sveta walks up her stairs
opens the door to her apartment,
her laptop sits waiting
yearning for her touch…


Ollie checks Greta’s bag carefully,
opens inner pockets, searching.

Greta flushes, trying hard
to think of a cover story,
Ollie unzips her makeup bag,
stops to rub his left eyebrow,
Blue cat sits purring loudly
next to Ollie.

Ollie, opens the lipstick case
it feels stiff, he tries to replace the lid
and encounters resistance.
With his index finger, he prods
out falls a tube of paper.
he carefully unrolls it, and reads
“The tattooed man with snakes
and celtic sleeves has earned
$10,000. He is stuck in a honey pot.
It’s time for you to come and play.”

Ollie reads and looks to Greta
for an explanation. She swallows
and begins to speak.
“He has flown to Hanoi,
he’ll be lured to Cat Ba.”

Ollie clears his throat,
“So what about
the baby Glock you pulled?”

Greta laughs relieved,
“My deception worked,
you searched my bag,
you found the note,
telling you was against the rules.
I am still in mortal danger,
I can’t say anymore than that,
let’s go together to Cat Ba.”