On the Occasion of Knoxville's 225th Anniversary


Indya Kincannon
[email protected]
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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R.B. Morris at Founders Day Luncheon
R.B. Morris delivering his inaugural poem as Knoxville Poet Laureate at the Founders Day celebration at The Foundry on Oct. 3, 2016 -- the 225th anniversary of Knoxville's founding. (Photo by Traci K. McDonell / City of Knoxville) 

On the occasion of Knoxville’s 225th Anniversary
A Birthday Card to Knoxville
by Poet Laureate R.B. Morris

Happy Birthday Knoxville!
Happy 225, it’s good to be alive!
How you doing?
You look great!
Thanks for inviting me to the party

Check out the food, the wine
Let us dine on this magnificent spread
I believe we’ll all get fed
And the weather, feels good
Now that it’s cooling off 
It’s always cooling off by your birthday, Knoxville
Lovely October, my favorite month in East Tennessee
Unless it’s May
But hey

An excerpt of R.B. Morris reading his poem at the Founder's Day celebration.

Click here for a larger view of the video.
Two twenty five and that’s no jive, Knoxville
You’re getting older
Have you thought about what you want to be 
When you grow up?
Hey, we don’t have to talk about that today
Today we celebrate

And you are looking good
I see you’ve tightened up a little around in the middle
Yeah, showing some more shoulder there on the north side
A little more leg on the south 
And your color is much better
You’ve been more active lately
I can hardly keep up
But I keep reading about you 

Someone in the Times said 
You were the ‘nation’s couch’
Ouch. Is that better than Scruffy City?
Yeah we’re working on an identity 
One piece of furniture at a time
Man, they want you to have a brand
Got to have a tag dude
They want to get a fix on you 
Put you where they think you belong
But hey, you’ll be singing your own song
That’s what you do best 
You know what I’m saying?

Of course you do
You’ve been doing it all along, Knoxville
You’ve been like a magic cauldron
Making your own potions
You’re like a well hidden still, back on the hill
If they want a branded cow
They can take that to some other town
Brands slide off of you like fake tattoos

Who could hang a name on you, Knoxville?
Well, you were named after the first Secretary of War
Who never set foot here
We hope he was impressed
He died choking on a chicken bone in Knox County, Maine
But hey, what’s in a name?
You’re still here 

But who am I talking to?
I’m talking to you, Knoxville
Knoxville was never anybody but those who were here
And here we are
Lucky us, to be here now
Be here now, that’s what the wise men of the East say
And here we are in East Tennessee
We who are here today
We are the city

Otherwise, Knoxville’s just the dirt to the edge of town
Just the streets and buildings
Just the bridges and overpasses, the telephone poles 
The sidewalks and signs
Otherwise we’re just a tiny piece of the interstate
We’re just this part of the river
Even the water like the clouds just moves on by
Just like us
We move on by
And somebody else 
Gets to be Knoxville for a while
So happy birthday to all of us

We should all hop on a city bus
And take a little tour of our town
Say Happy Birthday to everyone who’s around
That’s us, that’s who’s on this bus
This Knoxville

Knoxville, your very existence gives me license
We go way back, me and you 

Yeah, I was born at Fort Sanders
Born on the battlefield 
I’m a volunteer 
And I’m on your side Knoxville 
We’ve had our ups and downs  
But we’ve always found our way 

Like most of us
I have journeyed out, out and about, all around
And up and down the coasts and all across 
This big broad land 
But I’ve always found my way back again

Like most of us 
I have ventured into our mighty metropolises 
New York City, Los Angeles
Oh San Francisco, oh Chicago 
From Big Sur to the Outer Banks 
I’ve taken the old roads and the fast lanes
From Mallory Square to Mt. Rainier 
I’ve been there
I volunteered
Then I came back

I’ve walked the streets of London of Edinburgh of Berlin
I’ve raised a pint in old Galway and Dublin, the Isle of Man
I sang my Knoxville poems in the cafes of old Paris 
I have stood where the civilized world has stood
And listened closely to what they had to say
The great cacophony of their lovely woes
And then, I came home

We all came home

We came back just to watch you turn, Knoxville
And to be part of your turning
Your promise of becoming
And that’s what we love about you
You are always beginning
Taking the shape of who you are

And yes, we are a bridge
We are a bridge from here to there
Time is running over us like the river running under us
From 225 years ago to 225 years tomorrow
This is where we were back when 
And this is where we will be then
Right here, right now
We are long and strong and our song goes on
We come from the oldest mountains on earth
And we flow out into the world

This is not an ode to Knoxville
This is just a birthday card
This is best wishes and many happy returns
We hope you always stay a little disguised 
To yourself as a child, Knoxville
And here’s looking at you kid
It’s all ahead