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Knoxville's Poet Laureate hopes new poem will lift spirits, bring smiles

Marilyn Kallet reminds us that Knoxville in bloom each spring is dependably, faithfully and uniquely beautiful

To lift our spirits and give us a smile, Knoxville Poet Laureate Marilyn Kallet has penned a new piece, “State of the City: Green, Greener.”

Kallet reminds us that, regardless of the public safety safeguards in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, Knoxville in bloom each spring is dependably, faithfully and uniquely beautiful. So get outside, and savor the lushness.

You can read the full poem below or hear it, in Kallet's own words, in the video above.

Knoxville's State of the City: Green, Greener


We’re cloistered at home 

today, but our city

blossoms around us, and 

in us, love for home.

Other cities may turn envy-green 

When they glimpse 

Our flourishing greenscapes, our 

maples and sassafras, silky

dogwoods and blousy magnolias,

brazen you’re-not-from-around-

here-are-you? crepe myrtle.

Knoxville Botanical Gardens

Blossoms all the while 

We shelter. We persevere. 

Our Sunsphere, our views 

Of the foothills don’t fade.

“Knoxville is so green!” visitors say.

Mockingbirds and bluejays agree.

The sky has told them

Not to worry.

Follow city guidelines 

And you won’t be winging it,

But living long and well

In our town.


Even when we sleep, our city grows 

Greener, with parks and 

Wilderness trailheads flourishing. 

“Keep Knoxville Beautiful”

Is a plan, not just a dream.

Ask those who won the orchid

Contest. Ask the artists

Who stir imaginations,

Lend their vivid colors

To the city’s alleys and outdoor spaces.

Market Square murals call our spirits

With their vibrant brushstrokes.

Dolly’s face brightens a brick wall, and the 

Augusta Avenue ensemble welcomes


There will be more art and 


As time rolls on, 

Past fear. 

For now, we’ll create 

Safely, in place,

Masterpieces at home,

Or laughing stick figures

In trailhead dirt.


Green is the bridge

Mayor Kincannon traversed

With Mayor Rogero.

Continuity lights the way.

The city aims 

To keep our community safe,

“From a Distance” 

Is our chorus, our necessary theme.

We know that Market Square will bustle,

Be the envy 

Of other cities again.

In the mean time (mean time!)

We stay hunkered down,


Still, neighbors are helping

Neighbors. Maple Street Biscuit

Bundles emergency meals

For kids and families.

We’re good at sheltering

In good hands, 

With updated info

In a well-scrubbed grasp.

The state of our city depends

On all of us 

Using our brains.

Virtually, if we can. 

Good minds are hard at work,

Distancing, online.

Writing real letters

To our loved ones again.


All but vital stores

stay closed, 

For a time. Let’s take more 

Walks, keep six feet

Of loving distance    between us.

Canned beans, pickled ‘maters,

Grandma’s recipes

Will see us through this. 

The state of the city is smart

And kind, at home in us.

We’ll check on our elderly neighbors

By email. 

Wave to them 

Through the glass. 

We’re in this together, 

Not singing from 

Balconies, but from trails and

Laptops. Germs don’t know 

Who’s a Big Wig or a clown.

So we’re staying in, wiping 

Surfaces clean. 

Love is never having to 


Near someone else. 

Consideration and tolerance

Are not quarantined. 

Our beloved Phyllis Wheatley Y

Won’t always be closed. 

Diversity is not for a day––

It’s a race for always.


We love you, Knoxville smart,


Our daughter Heather was born at UT Medical,

Went to Bearden and West High, 

Then NCSA and Northwestern. 

Why can’t I brag? 

Didn’t she get her start

In Knoxville public schools? 

Heather judges the friendliness 

Of every other city 

By Knoxville’s tone. Today,

Our friendly arms are gently folded.

Yassin’s Friendliest Face

Stays with us, in spirit.

The dogwood trails

Shed petal 

Memos on the walks:

You are not alone, Love, Beauty.

The trees are rustling, 

Come back!

The state of the city is hope.

May it stay healthy and ever-green.

We love you, Knoxville, your 

Pervasive good will.

Toiling separately, 

At a mindful distance, we are

Working together, one strong,

resilient neighborhood!