Two Poems by Marilyn Kallet

Ode to Ragweed

Knoxville, Tennessee


Ragweed, you have turned my sinuses into 1-40 Westbound
on a Friday afternoon.
You have morphed my song into early Bob Dylan.
You have changed my cash into crumpled tissues and Benadryl.
You have bankrolled my doctor’s kids through Duke, through Vanderbilt.
You wave your green handkerchief and I 
bow and cough my forced tribute.
You have raised Knoxville to Number Three on the allergy hit parade!
Ragweed, you are queen of a humid kingdom and you
have created a hamlet of snot––to breathe 
or not to breathe––
Poets need air, Ragweed!  We beseech you:
carry your pollen out to sea!
Let salt be your Muhammad Ali,
the blow that sends you 
down for the count, 
Ragweed!






Ode to My Lost Glove

(January 23, 2019)


Forgive me, supple one,
I was too jittery

about reading poetry
to check my pockets.

Must have dropped you
darting to the Tennessee Theater. 

What kind of beast
measures its life in pricey

second skins? 
I pray icy fingers find you.

Today the overflow-homeless are sheltering 
in Knoxville city buses.

I know mine is a First-World
Problem. I’ll vow 

to be more careful,
more like Jane Hirshfield––

to cradle each object tenderly, 
Baby Buddha. 

Remember paltry wages 
at the Gimbel’s scarf-and-glove counter?

Sang “Mr. Tambourine Man” on the A train, 
echoing in tunnels.

Promised self I would stay in academia.
Stayed, and now I’m ranting for my city.

Treat each object like Neruda,
penning an ode against exile.

Treat every man better than 
your first husband.

This one’s a keeper.
Swear to lose less, or if you must lose,

compose. 
Turn elegies

into odes.
Forgive me, husband,

for treating cash
off-handedly, as if I were Wilbur Ross 

on a bad press day. 
My new gloves from Bloomies boast

they were “hand-made,
in China.” Forgive me, underpaid hands.

Thank you again, noble Bobby D,
for twanging me 

through
department-store hell. 

I held onto your ballad 
as I rode the friendless subway,

as I watched a teenager 
stuff a scarf from my counter

into her bra. 
1968, I sold lace handkerchiefs 

under the cold eye
of my supervisor, Miss Friburg.

Friends, 
it’s a tissue world.

My little Buddha-glove
may be curled on the concrete floor 

of the Locust Street Parking Lot,
thumbing a ride 

with karma, sorry 
its fist refused charity.

Lost chance, let my hands
become more giving.

Stray glove-sister, 
may you be found by

some shivering soul 
scurrying down

Clinch, down 
South Gay 

toward 
bright lights,

bold players,
buttery lobbies humming.





Marilyn Kallet is Knoxville Poet Laureate, serving her second term, and Professor Emerita at the University of Tennessee. She continues to lead writing groups for VCCA in Auvillar, France. She has published 18 books, including seven volumes of poetry. The most recent book of poems is How Our Bodies Learned (Black Widow Press, 2018). Recent magazine publications include New Letters, North American Review, and Plume



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