Last Words

Mayor

Madeline Rogero
mayor@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
A poem written to honor Dr. Arthur Smith (1948-2018). Smith was a mentor to thousands of UT students and an award-winning poet who taught at UT for more than three decades.

By Marilyn Kallet



Last Words

“Whoa Nellie!” was the subject line
of your last email,

asking me to take your classes.
“I’ll be in hospital, five days.”

“Acute leukemia,” you wrote,
apologized for

distrupting my retirement.
Five days, sure, I said.

Your students cried
when I told them you

were stuck at Park West.
We were writing love poems

to you at the hour
you died.

Our starter line: “Art,
You can’t hear me, but…”

“Thank you for listening 
when no one else did.

You can’t hear me, but 
my poems will thank you 

for the rest of my life,” 
your students wrote. 

You can’t hear me, 
but I miss you.

You and I weren’t always friends.
When your sister died

we grew closer.
When we read together

at Vanderbilt, 
you said you were scared. 

You’ll be great! I assured. 
You were perfect,

understated, funny, 
showed what poetry and its poet

could be. 
 “I am no longer frightened

When I think of the scene
without me,” you wrote.

“Children, squalling, and in my seat,
someone else.”

Whoa, Nellie!
We’re saving that seat, 

my friend,
don’t go!