July 2016

by Cassidy Martin/ Youth Poet Laureate

Photography by Hunter Armistead


Behind the Downtown Presbyterian Church in the back alley

protected and sheltered and hugged and loved

by the dried and dirty spray-painted mural

I fell in love

with this City.

A mural with a mountain

that looks like a thousand pounds of paint and color.

A sun rising over its side to witness this City.

My entire self is dedicated

to this corner of earth.


The sun is starting to notice us.

Our home.


This City is a family to me,

is the back of my hand as I walk down streets

from Hume Fogg to Rocketown to the police department

as I migrate from NSA to Big Picture to Maplewood

armed with nothing

but a blue backpack

that was a gift from my teacher.

Armed with open eyes and mouth,

speaking as just another kid wanting to make it.

Enveloped in this community.

My great-grandmother is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery:

She is safe.

She is watching

like our ancestors.


Gallatin Road is a movie:

Weiss Liquor Store bus stop isn’t a spot for teenage girls

but the lofts around them are clean and neat and gray

like the hair on the old man’s face

who offers me an orange from a trash bag bursting with



On the city bus, filled seats

and the only one empty is by a woman who doesn’t have



yet squeezes herself to the side to make room for me.

I don’t think she has a home

because I saw her sleeping on a bench yesterday.


Church Street attacks me

on rainy days

with wet-dog-scented sidewalks right in front of the library

where the people are divided

by the cracks.


Downtown inhales the scent of me,

intakes the sight of me.


Grown men who have permanent stubble and holey clothes

stare at these thighs

yet hold elevator-clawed doors away from me.


There’s a woman that comes into the library that people call

Baby Doll,

because she cradles a plastic Barbie in her arms like she

birthed it,

reading silently until they close.

And she was just a woman with clean clothes and a bright


until someone told me

they call her Baby Doll.


She was just a woman until they gave her a label.

Another person that is gum spit out on crosswalks

in a place that treats me like family.

How would you treat me if I told you I sleep on the street

instead of bed sheets?

Would you invite me to your table?

Would you feed me if I could not feed myself?

Clothe me if my shirt showed more skin than it is supposed


Smile at me because you know that I’m born on the same

planet as you?

If I showed you

a dried and dirty spray-painted mural

at the bottom of a building

in the back alley

of a downtown Presbyterian Church



am protected

and sheltered

and hugged

and loved,

where I fell in love

with this city…

Would you fall in love with this city too?

Cassidy Martin is the 2016 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate, a program of the Mayor’s Office, Nashville Public Library, Nashville Public Library Foundation, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, Metro Nashville Public Schools, and Southern Word. Cassidy is a junior at Big Picture High School.

Learn more at www.southernword.org.

Pin It on Pinterest