Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Detour in Tennessee

The Academy of American Poets honors Kimiko Hahn’s poem about Sweetwater Caverns

June 3, 2010 Today’s poem at, an online publication of the Academy of American Poets, is “The Sweetwater Caverns” by Kimiko Hahn. As with much of Hahn’s work, the poem is less about its declared subject—in this case, the famous caverns in Sweetwater, Tennessee—than about the way the subject raises questions about the convergence of death and desire. Here, stepping into a glass-bottom boat on an underground lake, the speaker considers a teenaged Charon, “Not an old man as it turns out / but a youth, colorless and tired of his i-Pod,” who is home for break, bored by his summer job, and waiting till he can “climb out of the caverns / into the six o’clock evening sun” and buy a six pack. Read the poem, and hear Hahn read it aloud, here.