Comfort Songs during COVID-19

Mayor

Indya Kincannon
mayor@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Starting with the COVID-19 pandemic, Marilyn Kallet started writing Comfort Songs each day. Below are just a few from the many she shared on social media.

Comfort Song in a Time of Peril
Spiritual
State of the City: Green, Greener - Knoxville, Tennessee
Apology, to Lou
The Biggest Blue Jay
Letters from Earth & Sky
You Can’t
Identify




March 20, 2020

Comfort Song in a Time of Peril

Sleep, little one,
Mama has washed her hands.
Daddy won’t touch his face

Again. We will keep you
From harm
With love and antibacterial

Wipes. We’ll scrub
Everything twice.
Mommy will keep Daddy happy

With her tongue. Wait,
That’s a different poem!
Mommy will sing you a

Powerful, germ-free lullaby.
Sleep, little one,
The President is an idiot,

But you will grow up
To be smart,
Empowered,

Fearless.
And by then
There will be a vaccine

And a Democrat.



March 24, 2020

Spiritual

What power has love during
a pandemic?

Ours was always
virtual.

Plato had it
right.

Kind love swells,
stronger,

like a muscle
that has been working

out, but lighter,
invisible,

like atomic
weights––

love that lifts us
daily without

hope of
gain.

We practiced
for this.

Virtual, virtuous,
Faut de mieux.

Write to me,
Buddy.

Plato, play dough.
Mixed metaphors

taste good.
Honey, words

are all we have
& hold.



March 24, 2020

State of the City: Green, Greener
        Knoxville, Tennessee


1.
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.

2.
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

Everyone. 
There will be more art and 

Innovation, 
As time rolls on, 

Past fear. 
For now, we’ll create 

Safely, in place,
Masterpieces at home,

Or laughing stick figures
In trailhead dirt.

3. 
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,
Cautious. 

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.

4. 
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 

Sneeze   
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.

Coda:
We love you, Knoxville smart,
Green.

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!         



March 31, 2020

Apology, to Lou

Sorry for yelling
when I spilled the coffee.
Sorry for stains on the rug

that resemble squalling babies.
Sorry for the grey rain
that nails us.

Sorry for not trusting
that you would heed
my cry.

Sorry we re-watched
a half hour of “The Marriage.”
Adam Driver is dynamite,

though. Ferris Bueller
offered the cure.
Sorry made of coffee grounds

and mean rain.
Sorry made of wet grass
and heat rash.

Sorry made of I’ll-leave-you
the last brownie
and Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate

that will arrive in Some Day’s mail.
Sorry made of cheap
toilet paper with

no holes for the holder.
Sorry made of birdsong.
Thank the Carolina Wren

who pecks our smallest seeds.
Thank the Blue Jay
who doesn’t wait in line

for ancient grains.
Sorry made of blossoms
and better days.



April 7, 2020

The Biggest Blue Jay

Lives in the hedge next door.
I have hedge envy.

He swoops in once a day
on a non-bagel-crumb

mission. Four times daily,
if I have seeds or multi-grain

bits. Passover begins
tomorrow, so we’ll see

if whole-wheat matzo warrants
his bright blue flight.

I am in love with a bird,
whom Lou does not envy.

He’s a secure guy.
When I confessed that I write to

a poet once a week, the
Air Force dude, Lou

didn’t blink. 39 years,
and he’s serene about love.

The only thing we argue
in our suburban fort

is how to fold the
hand towels.

Also, whether to watch
“All Rise” or

“A French Village.”
I gave him that rerun.

I’ll name the jay
Beau: “O les beaux jours

de bonheur
indicible…”

“Oh the fine days
of unspeakable joy.”

Hélas, Verlaine, these
unspeakable days

are not carefree.
Tell Rimbaud

I am thankful to be
cooped with a good man,

grateful that the blues
have wings.



April 21, 2020

Letters from Earth & Sky


The petals
on the earth
and William Stafford
say it best:
You are not alone.
The dogwoods
stand, jays screech
improv
with the hawks.
Yesterday,
the neighbors’
black Lab
came racing by
for a caress,
and you could hear
your own
shameless
heart.

So wrap yourself in
hope & a mask
and walk––greet
that family at
the end
of the block.

Silky
petals
drop
like divine notes,
& no one
gets
hurt––be
like that,
kind,
soft.

Read the tiny
ant-memo crawling
on your glasses
as you write:
You are not alone.

Rimbaud
was wrong: I
is not “someone else.”
I is all of us,
on a stroll to meet
the new, the guileless,
and the oldest
blossoming trees––

long-flowering ones
we yearn to sing,
become.



a name="cant"> April 26, 2020

You Can’t

My horoscope says, “You can’t find love
by seeking it,

so go create
beauty.”

Sure, would you like a side
of Aeolian harp strings with that?

Or a Grecian urn-chip
stamped with well-turned

men? “Are you done?”
the stars hummed.

“Weave lines like ivy
wrapping the sycamore,

slips that don’t need
us, almost weightless,

like the crisp magnolia
leaf you keep near the dash

for company,
tan like Spanish leather,

like that boy in Seville (what
was his name?) Fifty years

back. I bet
he remembers.”



a name="identify"> June 3, 2020

Identify

Can’t identify
With George Floyd?

He had a daughter,
Gianna. Age six.

“My daddy changed
the world,” she said.

Still nothing?
He had a pulse.

He had breath.

No breath.

He had a voice.
So do you.

Speak out.
Listen 

to Gianna:
“Daddy changed the world.”