Student poems inspired by Catherine Pierce’s Famous Last Words

My students in an intermediate college poetry workshop this fall 2012 semester read and discussed the poet Catherine Pierce‘s book Famous Last Words. Their take-home “exam” on the book was to write either an imitation of one of the poems or a cento using lines from the book. I’m inviting them to all post their poems here in the “comments” section, specifically so I can show Catherine just how terrifically her brilliant poems worked to help draw some amazing work from these talented students. Enjoy the comments–and read the book!

November 28, 2012. Uncategorized.

14 Responses to “Student poems inspired by Catherine Pierce’s Famous Last Words”

  1.   richelenew Says:


    You are my dinosaur chicken nuggets.
    My lucky socks
    unmatched. You are my tomorrow.
    I name you falafels, spatula, bag of
    stratosphere stars.
    I name your eyes
    my lightening bug jars.
    Never go, my unworldly earthling. Stay
    and keep me high, my Farris wheel eyes
    are aimed at your sky. Saying something
    new is like finding fossils. All the more
    reason to admit that I love
    dinosaur chicken nuggets. You are my
    side walk chalk, my concrete, my cape.
    You keep my everything locked
    in your heart chest. You’re my little Frodo phrase
    If you ask me, I will take the One Ring.
    You are my nerd lover. Never forget
    me, my hard drive. Never run away,
    my cheetah, my energy drink.
    Oh, dear squawking parrot, dear X marks the
    spot, dear pirate ship, just promise you’ll call me
    treasure until we are both skulls and crossbones.

  2.   ahemmert Says:

    “Pressure” (Imitation of the poem “Conscience”)

    “Two men were arrested after a woman disappeared in the Peace River in Arcadia on Sunday. According to a witness, a woman was standing on the ledge of the Morgan Park Bridge and a man identified as her boyfriend was encouraging her to jump.”
    –NBC Online

    That evening, I pushed you
    further than I intended,
    into liquid space, into something
    we weren’t prepared for. The moon
    a flittering milk smudge. You
    screamed, gravity refused to
    catch you. I didn’t
    know you couldn’t swim,
    didn’t know your family
    neglected to teach you
    not to listen
    to men like me.
    All I knew then, the jest
    of falling, the candor
    of surprise, your body a rounded stone.

    I can’t talk to police,
    iron wrists, cruiser window
    against my head. I don’t care
    if they call me cold,
    if they wrap me
    in weights, in chains, in orange scrubs.
    They can’t know my dreams,
    your face a balloon, your morgue
    tray a bed, fingerprint bruises
    on your neck, the river’s signature.

  3.   jkantaras Says:

    In Which I Imagine Myself Into an Anime
    after Catherine Pierce

    Walk with me along the sloped riverbank,
    between a Shinto shrine and Tokyo Tower.
    Ignore the tentacles. I’m looking
    for my sister; short, squeaky, eyes
    drawn like painted Easter eggs.
    I live under ramen booths
    and over action lines. Can you
    hear me scream over the loud
    colors? My hair a purple pinecone. My body
    trapped in three repeating frames.

  4.   jerrod Says:

    Imitation of “In Which I Imagine Myself Into a Film Noir

    In Which I Imagine Myself Into a Godzilla Movie

    It crushed my studio apartment with a gnarled,
    bleeding toe and I doubt it even felt the
    edges of a picture from when I visited Taiwan
    or the shards of the urn with grandfather in it.
    I scream Kill that thing! from a fleeing
    taxi but cry when it roars angry because
    no one fired mortar rounds at my
    feet for strolling the Chianan
    Plain, for being a tourist.

  5.   abbreed Says:

    Cento a.k.a. The Pilfered Poem

    The Heaven I Hope For

    We were meant to wear beasts’ pelts.
    now we hide behind cheap harmonicas and cheaper daiquiris,
    Once we were voyagers
    Now, we seldom tremble, seldom howl
    We were in a deep wood, once.
    And we weren’t afraid.

    It isn’t forgiveness,
    It isn’t grace
    It couldn’t be saved
    You’ve left me wanting nothing
    But you’re no gentleman,
    So simple to kill what we don’t understand

    The game is nearly over and you’ve just realized you’re late
    your single hawk wheeling overhead,

    you could blaze with the ghosts you’ve lost
    their former selves luminous
    they need you still
    Leap into the sea,
    You will not drown.

    Drive the car into the ocean
    Smash the phone
    I want none of it

    It’s morning now, wake up, it’s morning
    I sound frantic. I’m not. Does that worry you?
    Open the door so I can see the mountains.
    Over there – see? – dawn.

  6.   lauraemilyse Says:


    This is a Love Poem

    We know:
    The hotel bathroom is covered in cat fur,
    It was too late for you,
    We will be famous,
    And can’t fit through small spaces.

    Leave your hat on
    We’ve got plans

    What do you see, sleeping?
    On the sand, the most classic of shapes.
    The hairline fracture.

    She still wants to be a muse,
    You think I’m nothing more
    And of course you take me home
    Every time.

    What I love is to be behind things—
    So much light
    I can watch you

    Did you plant the ugly ones again?
    Gross, you say
    Next, you must understand
    In making words, we make a life
    They were chosen for a reason.

    We stuff our pockets with cigarettes and cherry candy.

  7.   lauraemilyse Says:



    You are my ice cream cloud. My lucky
    freckle. You are my fortune
    teller. I name you future, toothpaste,
    antenna. I name you lantern. Never
    go, my homing beacon. Stay
    and keep me sane, my fuzzy
    jumpsuit, my barre. It’s difficult
    these days to say something
    new. All the more reason to indulge
    you, my wine spritzer, my kidneys.
    You keep everything humming.
    You’re my little French word, my
    Merde, my quick, hopeful
    nasal curse. You’re my sunroof.
    Never forget me, my quadratic equation. Never
    run off, my Amtrak, my hot air balloon. Oh,
    dear dictionary, dear education system,
    dear ladder to the gods, just promise
    you’ll call me eternal

  8.   emeraldscott Says:

    Cento after “Famous Last Words.”


    She longs for your cracked
    hands on her, always a lightning
    sky behind each kiss. She collects
    change in a jar and performs Elvis
    tunes in Portuguese. Voices like
    water, like light through leaves. But
    worry, the tidy pool of blood on the 7-
    Eleven counter and the hotel bathroom
    is covered in cat fur. Do you know how
    many have ended this way? When they reach
    the graves, the sky sweats. Let them think
    it was selfish. It’s torture.
    There’s more to tell about the girl,
    but it’s better not to know.

  9.   melaniep Says:

    An imitation of Catherine Pierce’s

    You are my peach-tree. My fluffanutter
    cheeseball sandwich. You are my angel
    pie. I name you eye-tooth, hair-tie, life-saving
    floatation device. I name you mozzarella. Never
    leave, my Band-Aid. Stay
    and snuggle, my bath suds,
    my geyser. Isn’t it difficult
    these days to say anything
    new? All the more reason to coddle
    you, my cucumber, my lip-
    balm. You are my little Spanish phrase, my
    media naranja, my delicate chemical
    facial peel. You’re my creamsicle.
    Always remember me, my Crunchwrap Supreme. Never
    run away, my medicinal marijuana, my tweezers. Oh,
    dear deep breath, dear honeysuckle,
    dear everlasting twitch, just promise
    you’ll call me the morning after.

  10.   vbeard Says:

  11.   stephaniep Says:

    Empty Eternity: A Cento

    You are cartoons interrupted by war
    breaking the sky
    into pieces.
    There’s nothing at all
    inside. America,
    teach me how to strut.
    It’s your trickery I love,
    your sleek underhandedness,
    your suit the bluest.
    It’s torture.

    Bones of glass, my fragility
    kept me suspended.
    You’ve left me wanting
    I never stop
    going away, a suitcase
    full of wit and half-formed
    tales of woe. I’m the hush
    she doesn’t recognize, announcing you
    like fanfare.

    At sixteen, I was illegal and brilliant. I had secret
    hysteria. I was unformed
    and total. Not the end of the delirium,
    a lightning sky behind each kiss.
    Be careful
    with your memory.
    We had teacup faces and cyclone minds.

    The cat-girl’s heart opens into the street.
    You wanted to drift up into the cask
    of stars. (She knows there’s no place
    for salvation.) It isn’t forgiveness
    she seeks. She spoke
    in rapturous archaisms.

    The hairline fracture
    on a slowly swaying bridge,
    against the lake’s glass-blue glare
    voices like water riddled
    with missing nights and vacancies.

    The queen whose word
    is wicked, who conjures smoke
    and poison. You know the forest
    in the dark. We know
    we will be famous, former selves
    luminous and gone.

    You’re scaffolding, mere frame
    of yourself. Know that reason and never
    speak of it.
    I will sleep like a woman
    He holds his breath to follow
    under and down.
    He’s seen his share of dying.

    Stay and keep me warm, my wooly
    glove, my teapot. In dreams, annoyances
    are epic. Yonder the sun sets, molten,
    unhinged. Never my red mouth
    in close-up, this careful lipstick
    blood, like stained tulips.

    Leave your hat on. It casts
    a distinctive shadow. You inspire
    intrigue, not disgust.

    Don’t forget
    to sleep. What do you see?
    Make it up. (Let him die cinematically.)
    In making words, we make a life.
    How else can we live forever?

  12.   danielle32 Says:

    Exclamation Point to the Period
    after Catherine Pierce’s “Apostrophe to the First Gray Hair”

    O silent stain of solitude whose blossoming
    I anxiously await –

    You are the week of merciful rain
    washing away chances of jaundiced dandelions.

    The sweet scarlet letter written
    to unprotected women cursing Pearls.

    The initial burst of Christmas lights:
    lifeless, and bright.

  13.   kcalder2 Says:

    Love Poem to Misery
    (Imitation of “Love Poem to Fear” by Catherine Pierce)

    Every morning at 3 AM, I’m jolted
    awake, painfully cold and damp
    and frightened only to find you

    sleeping beside me. You are the clingy
    shadow I can’t get rid of. You always appear
    again at breakfast, adding an extra spoon of

    bitter to my coffee and making my cereal
    tasteless. You are the mockingbirds I want to
    choke because they always sing and flutter

    when I step outside. Even the air seems
    stale, like the day old lumps in the road
    you force me to notice aren’t crumpled shirts

    or piles of leaves but a lone kitten that stepped
    out too soon. I cry for it. I don’t want to lose
    my own to you. But you reappear

    with your sweet lips on my ears, tie me down
    with tender memories and push against me
    my own anxieties. You try sticking your silver

    tongue down my throat but I untangle
    myself from your grip and promise to run
    with the moon until I am swallowed whole by the sun.

  14.   Katie Riegel Says:

    Hey, poets! Catherine Pierce couldn’t leave a comment here (she was prompted for her USF netid), so she asked me to put this up for her:

    Hi, everyone–Katie let me know about this site, and I just wanted to say how much I absolutely loved reading (and watching!) these poems, and how honored and impressed I am by the work here. Really–reading these has made my day. I wish you all well with your future adventures in poetry!

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