Chapter 16
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“February in Knoxville”

Book Excerpt: Down

February in Knoxville

The lawn finally goes brown
with a dusting of leaves and turned earth.
The daffodils invert and purple husks
of berries hang like baskets from their vines.

February, and there’s no more snow,
just the showy wind making everything
crackle. Still, the city blinks in blue
and white, its people wrapped
liked crunchy gifts. I breathe
into cupped palms, walk the streets
that turn into others, watch
as the sun kicks light
off our city’s strange sphere.

We cannot choose where we love —
a place picks us from the flyaway
denizens who root and seed,
from the boxes that open
and reseal with no hands to lift them.

Sometimes we empty and are never
filled. Sometimes the rosemary
lasts through winter and mint comes
back like a hero on her masted ship.
And sometimes the sweetness
of cities and seasons is enough
to clean the body of its harm,
and we must take what lives to the lips,
to see if maybe,
maybe it can heal us again.

“February in Knoxville”

Copyright © 2020 by Erin Elizabeth Smith. All rights reserved. Erin Elizabeth Smith is the creative director at Sundress Academy for the Arts and the managing editor of Sundress Publications. Down is her third full-length poetry collection. Her poems have appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Mid-American, Tupelo Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, and Willow Springs, among others. She is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and in 2017 she was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame.