Self-Portrait as a Knoxville Farmer’s Market Flâneuse

(Knoxville, TN, June 2019)

My friends from the Sundress residency wait
while I let my dog Freya out of her tote,
put her on the leash. We walk into the crowd
and search for coffee.  As we wind our way through,
folks oooh and aaah, ask if Freya is a chihuahua.
Someone tries to pet her but she moves closer
as we stand in line to order our Mexican chili
mocha iced lattes. I haven’t had caffeine all week.
We split up, agree to meet in one hour. Maria
lends me her watch, pink as Freya’s tongue while
Freya sniffs a pastry stand.  I can’t resist raspberry
blueberry pop-tarts.  Then Freya and I browse
pottery, t-shirts, soaps, jewelry, sauces, but nothing
calls my name. I think of the farmer’s market in Ames
where Saturday mornings we’d order breakfast burrito
or fruit strips from the farmer with the pumpkin patch
and of the farmer’s markets in Mysore, how rickshaws
zigzag around cows lounging in the street, and
of the fabric stores we entered to tailor shawls or
a salwar kameez or purchase jasmine perfume.
I think of being mugged in Colima, walking away
from the farmer’s market. Someone blew a whistle,
hustled me into a store, offered a cup of water.
But here there is order rhythm safety, as we cross
under a tent towards a fountain where a man strums
a saw which mingles with a marimba. We rest on
a black bench, watch a woman push her fur babies
in a stroller until Freya pulls on her leash and we
return into the crowd into a souvenir shop with a sign
in its window dogs welcome here. The shop next door
is setting out a doggie dish of water when I hear,
‘Darlin’ ya got the time?’ It’s almost 11:15. We pass
a woman reading at a café, greyhound beside her,
cross the street and watch the flow of traffic until
Maria, no longer a farmer’s market virgin, presents
a cactus she bought in a dachshund planter.

Laura Sweeney