During the summer of 2014, it seemed like everyone I knew was getting married, and I tried to write a poem or a song to celebrate the weddings of all the couples in my life. One of those couples were my friends Katherine and Asad, who live in Nashville, Tennessee (hence the poem’s name). I’ve found that when I’m writing an occasional poem, if I think too hard about the people the poem is for, I feel too much pressure and am too worried about what the recipients will think of the poem. So instead, I try to start with what I know, which in this case was my love for my now-wife Kate. I figured that a love poem for Katherine and Asad would feel most authentic if I created it out of the love I know best.
Most of the images in the poem are the things I was seeing living alone in the woods of Minnesota (Right): the crow, the deer, the veins of leaves, the spider, the delicious blueberry pie of the local diner. And my new friend Pam (with Alyse Below Left), who lives in New York Mills, has a wonderful habit of “yarn-bombing”(Below Right) the lamp posts and stones around town by knitting them little sweaters. I also included in the list items from my own personal experience—memories that I wish I could directly share with my beloved, like the light rain on your face awakening you (that was teenage me waking up in the back of a flatbed one Georgia summer) or the staked dogwood learning to grow (a tree I planted with my father at the house where I grew up). I also tried to include some really massive items, like entire planets, or impossible stars visible during the day.
The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center (Right), which sponsors the Arts Retreat, puts residents up in a beautiful old yellow house (Below Left) only a short walk from Main Ave. The Retreat hosts only one visiting artist at a time, so I was on my own in the one-bedroom house, and spent my days alone reading, writing, and thinking.
I also revised “the moose opening her eyes in the morning” to “the red fox opening her eyes in the morning,” because the fox felt more elegant and elusive than the moose, and because I liked having a small homage to Lucille Clifton’s fox poems.
Then I thought about what would negate or subvert or complicate the big long list of gifts that preceded the “but,” and the answer was to give just one thing. In the final couplet, I could have stated what that “one thing” is, but I wanted the poem to be subtler and more complex, and I also wanted to turn into the idea of marriage—the idea that today is a special day because today is the day of the wedding.
I wanted the poem’s final line to explain why we’ve been talking about gifts and giving this whole time, and to offer the idea that the gift is the wedding, which is the self, the commitment, the promise of marriage. In a way, wedding vows are just lists of promises, which are gifts, so this poem, to me, reads like a set of wedding vows (which is why I put it last in the chapbook). In addition, the caesura at the end of the couplet’s first line set up a feeling of heavy closure for the final line, and I liked the idea of the poem’s final line sounding like both an ending and a whole new beginning (like what a wedding represents).
Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Denver Quarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, The Greensboro Review, and ZYZZYVA, among others. She received her MFA from George Mason University, where she co-founded Gazing Grain Press.