Have you ever known someone who remained angry day after day? I’ve known a few and, honestly, it’s not a pretty sight. I suppose some rappers stay angry for years and make good money from it, but it makes me very tired to angry for too long. So, it seems a change in tone is in order after two days of anger and discouragement. I thought it might be a good time to focus on some good things being done by good people.
Yesterday I wrote about the discouraging encounter with the owner of 1302 White Avenue. As it happens, just after looking at those houses slated for demolition, I turned and walked further up the hill in Fort Sanders toward James Agee Park. Simply the fact that I can write that sentence, with its reference to Knoxville’s most luminous literary figure is a hopeful reminder, for our own RB Morris persisted with a dream for years before finally having a city park named after that famous writer whose childhood home was destroyed just north of the sight of the new park.
As I climbed the hill I heard music and I knew the Fort Sanders Neighborhood Homecoming was underway. Getting closer, I recognized the crashing chords of “Baba O’Riley” and knew Laith Keilany, Russell Tanenbaum and Jodie Manross were playing in the park. They finished as I walked into the park past signs proclaiming “Fort Sanders Neighborhood Festival.” Several dozen residents, alums and well wishers mingled on the small lawn. Everyone was asked to vote for their priorities for the Fort from choices ranging from safety issues to preservation.
Fittingly, RB Morris read from his recent works of poetry while people enjoyed the good food or just enjoyed the great afternoon. Marshall Stair and Finbarr Saunders from the city council were there, though in no official capacity. Jesse Mayshark, City Communications Director also joined the crowd. The event was sponsored by Knox Heritage, so Kim Trent as was a great mix of friends. The idea is start building more of a sense of community while formulating some long-range goals based on what people said they would like to see in the neighborhood. I walked home past the “Rainbow Row” on Eleventh Street, Victorian homes which have been saved twice and I felt a little more hopeful.
It was an uplifting event and group of people and a perfect antidote to the toxic events of Saturday. If you want to continue a preservation sort of discussion, meet at The Crown and Goose tonight from 5:30 to 7:00 for Preservation and Libations with Kim Trent. (Alternately, consider getting in touch with your literary inner-self at Union Avenue Books with author Sharyn McCrumb at 6:00) I’ll leave with you with a poem written by local poet, and my friend, Judy Loest. It speaks to much of the heartbreak, determination and grittiness of a city. Our city. She’s not published it, so you are seeing it for the first time. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.
Cities, a Prophecy
After every surefire scheme, every aborted promise,
After the developers have packed up and moved on
With their checks and bromidic drawings,
Someone has to reinvent the cheap and ugly.
Someone has to get mired in cement and cinder,
Put muscle to stone in order to salvage the past,
To rouse a disillusioned, unconscious future.
It takes years after the cameras have left,
After the curious have stopped coming,
Decades before someone is able to meld
Function and art, memory and dream.
Cities sit for decades like deserted brickyards
Where the green-eyed scavengers pitch camp
During the day and the junk man drives his wagon
Through the empty streets at night.
One day, History is uncovered like the bones
Of a mastodon. Someone sifts through
The wreckage, carrying away shards.
Someone, maybe the last one, broom in hand
Outside a decades-old deli, still remembers
The way it was before the interstate
Halved the city’s heart, before the automobile
Claimed dominion. Someone, pen in hand,
Will step forward to listen. Someone, a poet
Will quote a line from Jack Gilbert about a fox
Searching for what remains of Pittsburgh.
Someone will scan yellowed photographs
And maps, someone will pick up a shovel.
Already there are those who begin to shift
About, who find it all dull and walk away.
Those who know History must make way
For those who know little and finally as little
As nothing. The children of the dead
Will pass by sterile, hollow-eyed windows
And find no reflection, no evidence
Of the story that anchored them like a port.
Across acres layered with asphalt,
Past the skyline’s ragged hem, Time moves
Like bird shadow along a dry riverbed, echoes
Through dank alleys and crumbling concrete canyons