by Haviland Whiting
2018 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate
Presented at Mayor David Briley’s
2018 State of Metro Address
The sun is setting over the city,
a symphony of silence,
save for a passing car.
I watch my city turn off her lights,
say goodnight to the roofs and chimneys, and light the moon ablaze.
Nashville—golden even when all is dark.
Music follows a woman home on Broadway, her husband plays in a bar downtown.
A girl treks to the corner mart
her daddy watching from the window.
And in a university,
a student stares at a ceiling, wondering how he ended up here, miles from California.
Here, Nashville has a skyline people write songs about. With evergreen and skies streaked with the fading light of days gone by.
And as tea brews on the stove in 1962,
a young boy takes his seat at a counter downtown, his skin the same color as the coffee
spilled onto his white button down.
And in 1864, sepia tones reveal Nashville putting on her work boots as gunfire echoes through the night.
Walking through the streets
of a slumbering city,
I am heavy with the bones of those who support the street below my feet.
Shawnee women weave baskets and braid hair in a window.
I am watching history unfold during my long walk home.
Here, we have party girls and their drinking games, painting the town happy.
We have tourists in their cowboy boots
and low-rise jeans,
losing themselves on 12 South.
We have the girl walking to the corner mart, remembering where her friends lived
before a university expanded. Or a shopping mall.
Or another highrise.
Nashville—what is the price
of a family? Of a home?
of sun-bleached days on the basketball court, what happens to a friendship
when even the projects get too expensive? What about the homes,
No little girls with their braids and beads or me, in my light-up Sketchers?
There are people who have nowhere to go.
Breathing in this high-rise city becomes difficult when I remember how cold the winters here get.
And how much colder it must be when you’re sleeping outside.
We have people
who consider the bottom of a bridge
the closest thing to home.
As I hand the man
on the corner of Wedgwood
all of the change in my pocket,
I wonder how long it will take until he too, becomes a memory.
People speaking their minds will bring change,
will bring righteousness,
and will bring slumber to the bodies sleeping below.
And maybe the college student
sends the streetlight reflected off the pavement to his love in California.
Maybe he tells her,
“I miss the beach, but damn do these Nashvillians know how to dance.”
And as the sepia tones fade out,
the wife and her soldier dance the Tennessee waltz while candlelight flickers.
As the sun sets on the sleeping city, I bottle up her last rays.
I release my love over the skyline, the one people write songs about.
When I arrive home,
I remember how imperfect home is. Nashville-heartbreak city,
There are things that need fixing, lights that need replacing,
shelves that need dusting,
and hearts that need breaking,
a city of music, of love,
of missed buses and art museums, of forgetting and cold nights,
it is home nonetheless.