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American Life in Poetry: ‘Crater Heart’

Kwame Dawes

By Kwame Dawes

Tennessee Hill’s South emerges in her poem as a character, a personage that haunts and possesses her with beauty and a certain disquiet. Her poem, “Crater Heartk,” moves from fragmentary image to simile to metaphor in a seemingly disjointed fashion, that in the end, becomes a composition of arresting beauty: “I have stuffed the South’s nightlights/in my mouth.” Perhaps this is how she wants us to read her poem of elegant strangeness.

Crater Heart

Such strangeness these days.

Morning rising over my head

like the quilt sewn of old t-shirts

or saltwater waves

licking our sun-bleached dock.

Then–you absorbing moment, you

harvest queen–the sky is surprised

by evening’s orchard.

I have stuffed the South’s nightlights

in my mouth. Gala of fireflies.

How clumsy I feel in front of God.

Poem copyright 2022 by Tennessee Hill, “Crater Heart” from the Adroit Journal Issue, Forty-One. American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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