Shamar Hill

Of The Heart, A Hymn & Interracial love affair ended by lynching of a man & let there be a song for zero
April 20, 2021 Hill Shamar

Of The Heart, A Hymn


Your name is ash
reinventing the world at this hour.
The sound of the rain
is the sound of the ocean
is the sound of fire.
Your name is a train ticket
to a town of wanderers.
The roads rattling with people
making small talk, lighting cigarettes,
but I think of desolate roads gray and stretched.
Your name is the vertical studs
in a gutted house.
The need for a greater idea
and the emptiness of the house,
depending on the light,
can be filled
with the promise of morning coffee
or the exhaustion in a curtained evening.
I call to you and a herd of mares
gallop alongside a bramble.


Interracial love affair ended by lynching of a man

January 14, 1922

Dearest Ed,
A reporter called.
They found my letters
in your pocket.
You often impress on me
that we can’t take any chances.
But isn’t a love like ours measured
in the distance we must travel?
I fled through the swamps,
stretched gray in the pitch night.
The moon, stalked me, like a brightly lit ghost.
I trusted the providence in your gaze,
even though I knew I was running to my own death.
The next morning, I opened
the back door to the fields
of flowering dogwoods, birch, and redbuds.
In the silence, in my silence,
I found a foreign country.
I remember the shirt I bought
when I was shopping with my sister.
She asked me who’s that for?
I lied, told her it was for our cousin.
This grief I’m forced to carry
like the linen shirt in a red giftbox
I couldn’t say was for you.


let there be a song for zero
On the bus home from school
my son asks about zero.
I say it isn’t really a number.
If he could imagine
an unexplained world,
a shaft of light,
night as the first mother of songs,
a sleepless people
trying to make sense
of the tangible,
then zero is a placeholder—
time wanting to define the wind.
Don’t tell your son zero isn’t a number
a white woman yells at me
with such disgust I silence myself.
I hope in my quiet I’m saying something
to my son about being a man.
I look in his eyes, hold his hand,
and kiss his forehead.
He squeezes my hand,
burrows his face into my chest.
When we get off the bus
leaves are scattered
by a gust of wind
on the verge of translating
the infinite.

Shamar Hill is Black, Cherokee, and Jewish. He is the recipient of numerous awards including fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Cave Canem, and Fine Arts Work Center. He has been published in: American Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, The Missouri Review, and Washington Square Review, among others. He is working on a poetry collection, Photographs of an Imagined Childhood, and a memoir, In Defiance of All True Things. Shamar is the Director of Institutional Giving & Stewardship at the Academy of American Poets.