Salt Hill

By Jane Springer Jane Springer
I was born in a Tennessee sanatorium hours after my mother’s father died & I know
how the womb becomes a salt-sea grave.
 
I was born in the last seconds of small crops & small change rained down on the
collection plate’s felt palate & I know
 
the soul’s barn debt to past generations, too.
 
Outside, ditchfuls of chicory flashed in the after-rain sun as melancholia’s purple
scent rose & its steepled fog distilled in Tennessee hills.
 
& I know I’m not supposed to be here on account of all those crazy aunts & I know
great grandma was five
 
when her Cherokee mother died & her daddy dumped her on the red clay curb
of an Arkansas reservation then drove away in a wagon—
 
how she just strode the fields of milkweed back to Tennessee & married her cousin.
 
When I was five I drowned a fly in a piepan of water then spooned it out & heaped
a hill of salt on its still body until I could hear a buzz again (as if within a belly)
 
& I know the rush of the resurrected.
 
I was born in the last decade of small town girls wearing white gloves to funerals.
 
As an infant my boy quit suckling long enough to wave to my mother’s ghost—
who used to drift in the doorway of the hours.
 
& at three he told me at my age he had red hair & broke his neck falling off
a runaway horse—I know
 
                                            the rocking chair’s set too close to the edge of the porch.

Jane Springer, “Salt Hill” from Murder Ballad. Copyright © 2012 by Jane Springer. Reprinted by permission of Alice James Books.

Source: Murder Ballad (Alice James Books, 2012)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Jane Springer

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Birth & Birthdays, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Town & Country Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Jane  Springer

Biography

Born in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, and raised in several small towns across the South, poet Jane Springer earned a PhD at Florida State University. Her debut poetry collection, Dear Blackbird (2007), won the Agha Shahid Ali Prize from the University of Utah Press. Her second collection, Murder Ballad (2012), received the Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books. Influenced by Flannery O’Connor and Larry Levis, Springer writes . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poems by Jane Springer

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Birth & Birthdays, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Town & Country Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.