Cento from the Diary of Anne Frank


Here in the secret annex

Look – how a single candle can define
and yet defy the darkness


The reason I’m starting a diary is that I
have no real friend

Neither I nor anyone else,
for that matter, may be interested
in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl

It doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.

The young are not afraid of telling the truth.

But more than that, I want to draw out what lies
buried in my heart

shake off everything, vanish
my sorrows, rebirth


A new prescription for gunfire nerves:

As the shooting gets louder, make your way
to the nearest wooden staircase.

Run up and down a few times, being sure
to stumble at least once.

With all the scratches, the din of running
and falling, you won't even hear the shooting,
much less worry about it.

Yours truly has put this magic formula to use,
with tremendous success


Why is mankind so insane?

Why make enormous planes, bombs,
and pre-fabricate houses for reconstruction?

Why spend millions on the war each day,
and nothing for artists, for the poor?

Why do people starve, with mountains
of food spoiling in other parts of the world?

There is in humanity simply an urge to
destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and

Rage. Until all the world, without
exception, undergoes a transformation,

Wars will be waged, everything that has been
built up, cultivated, and grown will be

Destroyed, disfigured, after which
the world will have to begin over again


The world will keep on turning without me

I've reached the point where I hardly care whether I
live or die.


Love, what is love? I don’t think you can
put it into words

I love you, with a love so great that it couldn't
keep inside my heart, but had to leap out
and reveal itself in all its magnitude


Who has inflicted this upon us?
Who has made us different from all other people?
Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?

Crying may bring relief, as long as you don't
cry alone

I want to go on living even after my death
I don’t want to have lived in vain


I realize that this period of my life
has irrevocably come to a close

gone forever

Let’s not talk about it anymore, but if you still
want anything please write

write because I can say what I mean
much better on paper

Paper has more patience than people

Don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty
that still



I see 
the world gradually being turned into a wilderness.

I hear
the ever-approaching thunder, which will
destroy us.

I feel
the sufferings of millions and yet,
if I look up into the heavens,

I believe
- not everyone has the gift
of believing in heavenly things -

I believe
in spite of everything

I still believe
that mankind is really, at its heart,


A single candle

Here, in the secret annex

how a single candle
can defy the darkness


  1. A cento is a poetic form composed of passages taken from one or more other authors, but arranged in a new structure or order.

    Short link - http://bit.ly/s4annefrank

  2. this is again something new to me....and yes this book I have read ...........so felt very attached to these lines here.....thank you....

  3. This is wonderful, Sam. I love the words of Anne Frank, and you arranged them in a beautiful and effective poetic way which breathed life into them again! Anne's life is indeed much more than a single candle...and does both defy and define darkness!

  4. I've read the Diary numerous times, and it always maintains its hold. How you've arranged Frank's words here opens them in a wholly different way, and yet... That image of the single candle is well-placed. Its meaning is what we want to be left with.

  5. Beauty breathed
    timeless thoughts
    emotions caught
    in the flicker
    of a life
    reflected in
    the warmth of a candle

    sad that her life and talent were snuffed out so young...
    Thank you Sam!

  6. How beautiful..I have never heard of this form but you have created such a magnificent piece.

  7. Her flame sparked a conflagration as your careful placement both shows and leads us to. Gorgeous and affecting.

  8. This poem touched my heart. I read her book so many years ago, I forgot how powerful it is. But your selections and arrangement of these words is just as powerful and beautiful in a very sad way.

    (Don't know if I'll have time, but I may try writing a Cento today. Thanks for teaching me.)

  9. a wonderful cento sam and you honor her deeply with this..really touched me again...saw the house she lived in when i was in amsterdam..the closure really brought me to tears..it is true..a single candle is enough to defy the darkness..thanks for this sam..really can't tell how much i enjoyed it..

  10. Wow, Sam--this was a perfect tribute and beautifully woven.

  11. Anonymous3:30:00 PM

    I think this is very powerful, very emotive...and the use of the single candle at the start and in conclusion intensifies the massage. Beautiful writing. I haven't yet written a Cento, I aim to try for tomorrow (currently I spend more time on photography than poetry..because I'm feeling lazy).

  12. Anonymous4:17:00 PM

    so very careful, thoughtful, loving. a beautiful piece.

  13. very nice sam....picked up pretty quick on the anne frank but you have done wonders with it as well...spent some time with her writing and her story a little over a year ago...oy..you took me back there....def powerful....

  14. Clever to use her prose to create poetry illustrating her essence

  15. I am fascinated by the idea of the cento, and IN AWE at how you made Anne's voice speak so clearly. You encapsulated her entire diary in this poem. She would so love to know that her voice is STILL speaking to our hearts, all these years later. Beautiful, Sam. Absolutely stunning.

  16. How wonderful Sam - this is a different treatment for a cento than I've attempted; it's perfect and brings Frank's voice alive. As others have said, the candle burns brightly throughout - it does centre the piece and reflects Frank's voice and optimism as well ... very, very nice.


  17. Lovely... I especially like IV.

  18. Wonderful - beautiful work!

  19. What a lovely post Sam ~ I am intrigued by the form ~ Thanks so much for sharing this ~

  20. /It doesn't matter. I feel like writing/ stays with me. It seems the Cento can be entirely from one source, as you suggested, and it can contain some of your own work to pull things together. Had fun with it, sir.

  21. Anonymous10:07:00 PM

    So heart felt, and I love the ending, how perfect beautifully done.

  22. loved how the ending captured every line... with just a glint of hope

  23. Her writing will keep her memory and her story alive. It's incredible to me that many people don't believe the holocaust happened. Your brilliantly placed quotes construct a timeline over which she felt the inevitability of her death, but never lost faith in humankind or hope for a future after she dies. An affecting work.

  24. Anonymous11:39:00 PM

    Well, Sam - you had incredibly great material to work with , but that doesn't take away from the fact that you chose it and collaged it beautifully. Very beautiful. k.

  25. Beautiful poem Sam! You maintained the connection and sequence most brilliantly. I took a whole stanza and alternate with mine.Invariably it might appear to be hanging as I took from 3 different poems. Ah..well. Hopefully my posting is a Cento. Thanks Sam!


  26. She was and still is such an inspiration. Her soul was and still is the candle.
    You have written something with a little spark of magic in it Sam. Taken something awful and turned it into beauty just as Anne tried to keep seeing only the good in man.
    Yes, until humans are forced to globally have a mindset change, nothing will change.

  27. Samuel, this is a beautiful collaboration of words, exploring courage, duty, and faith. I love her sensible voice and the clear light in her heart. Wonderful arrangement of visions, the glorious mountains of food, mankind's innate urge, and the hopeful transformation. Very powerful. Thank you for this interesting exercise.

  28. Anonymous2:26:00 PM

    What a special insightful little girl she was and how tragic was her end.You have explored her inner landscape
    with great sensitivity.
    Cressida de Nova

  29. This is deeply moving...beautiful. I love how at first we are asked to look at the candle and then at the end the 'see' is more of a gesture to the candle which makes you feel you are there with her...especially after reading the rest...I was there with her. Well done!

  30. Oh Sam, this is so very beautiful. I read Anne's words for the first time when I was about 13 years old and her life, and light have stayed with me always... she was - is still a single candle, amongst many single candles defying darkness through the ages.

  31. Sam, thanks for the very cool prompt. Have enjoyed reading some of these Centos over the year, and had dabbled in the form before, but never anything like what you inspired me to come up with the other night. I love the way you did yours , a perfect illustration of what can be with this form, perfectly in line with the excellent article posted for the prompt. Thanks


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