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Cameron Morse: “Night Clouds in the Black Hills”

Poetry Prize Finalist

Often the search within a poem’s blood and flesh happens slowly. I encourage my students to find the volta of a poem, a twist, and change that takes us further into its, and our own interior.  The third stanza of Cameron Morse’s “Night Clouds in the Black Hills” struck me, and would not let go. Morse turns a carefully constructed string of figurative images into a pause that becomes golden as the speaker unfolds senses to expose the vulnerability we all carry: “a catastrophe within.”   

— F. Douglas Brown, author of ICON, poetry prize judge

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Night Clouds in the Black Hills

Thunder crashes like a chest of drawers
pushed down a flight of stairs
in anger, intimations of divorce.
Light leaks out of the crevasses between the toes

of clouds. I watch the darker form of some
clouds caterpillar across the lighter
form of others, the pines blacken
in my window screen. Silent lightning flickers like a dying

lightbulb in the darkest corner of the sky.
I know this is paltry and predictable. Treefrogs trill.
I am still. For a long time, I listen to the sound of water
rushing somewhere down below, water

or wind. Who can tell the difference? Clouds calve
like glaciers birthed above the dark chimney:
Clouds colliding with clouds,
clouds within clouds, a catastrophe within me.

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