Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby


Jeff Hardin, a native of Savannah, Tennessee, is a professor of English at Columbia State Community College. A graduate of Austin Peay State University and the University of Alabama, where he earned an M.F.A. in creative writing, Hardin is the author of two chapbooks, Deep in the Shallows (GreenTower Press) and The Slow Hill Out (Pudding House), as well as one book-length collection, Fall Sanctuary, recipient of the Nicholas Roerich Prize. His poems have appeared in many journals, including The Southern Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, and Zone 3, among others, and have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Poem of the Week, and Verse Daily.


Having read and loved a poem by Neruda,
     good luck finding it again
in all those pages, book after book.

And a passage, stanza, or phrase?
     Might as well reach inside a waterfall,
pull out a lily or lighthouse—

the words will have turned already
     to enigma or shade of acacia trees,
an incoming wave on the sand.

And forget trying to place again a single word,
     the one from which you felt a shiver.
It has pledged itself to silence, wind,

aroma of some yesterday only your bones can know.
     You are now a servant of uncertainties.
Having known and moved among borders;

having sailed through open doors and solitudes
     and danced upon pollen, your mouth
open, tasting a pulse on the air;

having touched surf and shawl and the rain
     inside piano notes lingering all night,
now you know nothing, a child again

who picks up rocks, tosses them into a stream,
     each disappearing for perhaps millennia
or never to be touched again, like a thought.