Knoxville’s Time: an Ode

In which we ponder a decade’s worth of great-sounding ideas

You need not be an accredited municipal mystic

To notice some plans don’t come out realistic

Big Knoxville proposals we say “there’s been talk of....”

Would fill several books by Vladimir Nabokov.

Though actual construction is rare in Knoxville

Ideas and diagrams arrive by the boxful.

Plans are there, then they’re not. The planners show sketches

But most city projects end up as far fetches.

Maybe it’s recession, or the grumpy aginners

Who spoil inspirations that once sounded like winners.

Light rail, indoor football, a Home Federal annex

A university known for its academex,

A planetarium, a beltway, a presidential museum

Are just some of the things we’ll believe when we seeum.

Some dream of safe streets, some dream of a Macy’s

So Nashvillians won’t come here and think we’re just hayseeds.

For the lonesome Old City, a parking garage

May or may not ever be more than mirage;

A grocery downtown, a new main library

Are wonders we’d behold if fate weren’t contrary.

Switchgrass production, a city that’s solar,

A championship in the derby that’s roller,

A walkable campus, non-restaurant retail,

A grand new hospital, a new county jail,

A public-art policy and billboard control

May appear by the time of our Bruce Springsteen show.

A football crown for the 21st century

National press that’s fair and compliment’ry,

Afghan, Ethiopian, and Uzbek cuisine

Honest officials, a hip music scene,

Non-obese citizens and a Sentinel Tower

Are goals that may call for a higher power.

Something to do with those Warehouses (McClung’s)

That doesn’t call for more soot in our lungs.

A shrine to NASCAR once struck some as logical

As did a huge database of all things genealogical.

A grand planned community, like Northshore Town Center

Isn’t quite there yet, stuck in the fermenter.

A solution to I-40, which cuts up the city

Swift through-transportation’s infrequently pretty;

Knox Boulevard sounded like a perfect answer

But then, just as perfect as the cure for cancer.

As soon as solutions appear to be sensible

We learn that they are in fact indefensible.

A big high-tech studio, one that endears

The movies to Knoxville comes up every few years.

(Why wouldn’t they shoot here? Are we too Puritanic?

Is East Tennessee really that unphotogenic?)

A new Downtown North at old Happy Holler

Would push new urbanism for others to foller:

Hm. A Downtown Bearden could be almost iconic

And is a Downtown Farragut oxymoronic?

A sensible route to the South Knoxville Bridge,

New business to bring Five Points out of the fridge,

Don’t Walk signs that always mean what they say

A James Agee statue, a Smokies greenway,

Urban development on the river’s south bank

Intermodal transit, a hotel that’s more swank,

Unquestioned status as Capital of Americana

May arrive with the legalization of marijuana.

A lush winter garden, a corporate HQ

Another memorial to recall World War II,

An elected official who’s not just a dissenter

Real conventions to go with our Convention Center,

And all these years later, a use for the Sunsphere

Though we admit it’s already a great place for a beer;

And in deep West Knoxville, a resort for vehicleans

These sorts of proposals oft prove to be prickly ‘uns.

And Millennium Tower: Remember that’n?

One thing we could have that’s unknown in Manhattan.

Are some of these still to come true—but just late?

No one knows, but the smart money’s on three thousand o eight.

It gets so discouraging that our race can seem run

Except, now and then, we do get something done.

A revived Market Square, they said, was another chimera

On a par with replacing the old Riviera

Two decades after its demolition.

“It’s nothing but a case of municipal wishin,’”

They said, of the Cineplex, once a long shot.

But there it is now. You can’t claim that it’s not.

And who knew we’d revive the old S&W

That big vacant building that would otherwise trouble you

Who expected the department store, and the live radio show

To return, along with the elegant townie condo?

Not me. But I’ll just rub my eyes and

Admit that my hometown is sometimes surprisin’.

This two hundred nineteen year-old city gets stressed

But we’ll keep up with the talking and hope for the best.

© 2010 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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