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Kim Dower

Kim Dower

Kim Dower followed in Thomas Lux’s footsteps at Emerson under the guidance and love of Dr. James Randall, Director of Emerson’s Writing Program and publisher of Tom’s first book. Like Tom, Kim stayed at Emerson to teach until her move to Los Angeles in 1977. Red Hen Press has published three collections of her poetry. She’s the City Poet Laureate of West Hollywood, and teaches poetry workshops Antioch University.

He Made it Real

He made it real. We are different, he told us. We do this because we have to. We are poets. Spring, 1971, freshman year, Emerson College—the class that irrevocably changed my life. My hidden notebooks scribbled with poetry now had meaning. It was like a shrink told me I wasn't crazy, and if I was, it didn't matter. He'd call us dummies, order us to never use the words abyss or infinity, read us the poets he adored, made us part of his life: Poetry Family. At 24 years old, Thomas Lux was already the devoted, passionate, funny, kind, mesmerizing teacher he'd be for the rest of his life. Being proclaimed a poet was like having a juicy secret I was bursting to tell every day. And years later when I returned to writing poetry, I got back in touch asking if he'd look at some poems. I could feel his smart-ass half-smile over the phone—the warranty has expired. Then he said, send me ten, and there he was again—generous, encouraging. We do this because we have to, fruitcake. And, Tom, I do it thanks to you—line by line, word by word.

My Malaria

Don't worry about my tongue
being a biscuit of dust.
Don't think about my pillow
which is filled with quinine.
I don't.  My malaria
is not contagious,
nor is it hereditary.
Why do I walk bent over like this?
Because when they operated
to remove my malaria, and found nothing,
they became bitter
and sewed me up with wire,
hauling me inward.
No, my malaria isn't particularly painful.
No, I don't plan to change
my name to Mr. Malaria.
No, there isn't a serum, an inoculation
for my malaria.
My malaria, however, does have some
control: often it speaks for me,
interrupts me, plants a dozen arrows
in each small thing I remember.
Yes, it keeps me up nights.
Yes, I'm tired of it.
Would you get me a glass of water?
Will you help me stand up?
Listen, I think someone is at the door.
Yes . . . it's my malaria.
Get ready to meet a monster.
Get ready to hear the same groan
you heard yesterday, the day before,
every day.

 

 

from Memory's Handgrenade, Pym-Randall Publishers, 1972

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