she can’t work :: kim dower

if the chair is there
she can’t think
if the clothes are dirty

she can’t visualize
turquoise water in Bermuda
white chickens or what can happen next

if food is sticking
to this morning’s dishes
she can’t work

if the chair is there
itchy leopard pattern
too large for the space

was an impulse buy
back when furniture was exciting
when a chair

could change her life
she can’t work
so she drags it out

from its living room corner
scrapes the hardwood floors
pushes it into the front garden

where it sinks into the soft wet dirt
freshly watered glistening with
half dead peonies

now the chair out there
a trampoline for squirrels
a home for shedding leaves

they took the mailbox away :: kim dower

on Cahuenga and Clinton.
I know because I wasn’t feeling right,
decided to take a walk, figure things out,
remember why I love the clouds.
Found my rent check still in my purse,
gave me a goal, a project I could complete.
But when I got to the corner it was gone,
just space in the place where the box had been,
where I’ve deposited countless bills,
birthday cards, where once I tossed
a sticky half-eaten ice cream dish.
There was no garbage can in sight.
I gave it some serious thought, but now realize
the mess I made: may have destroyed a young girl’s
last letter to her grandmother, stained a college
application — what did admissions people think
when it arrived with chocolate sprinkles stuck
to the stamps — worse yet a love letter someone
finally had the guts to send smeared with butterscotch
sauce, possibly obscuring the recipient’s address,
sender never knowing it was not received,
and when I saw the empty corner
where the mailbox used to be,
granted out of place on that isolated street,
it hit me: the lives I ruined,
the mailman’s soiled hands.

bottled water :: kim dower

I go to the corner liquor store
for a bottle of water, middle
of a hectic day, must get out
of the office, stop making decisions,
quit obsessing does my blue skirt clash
with my hot pink flats; should I get
my mother a caregiver or just put her
in a home, and I pull open the glass
refrigerator door, am confronted
by brands—Arrowhead, Glitter Geyser,
Deer Park, spring, summer, winter water,
and clearly the bosses of bottled water:
Real Water and Smart Water—how different
will they taste? If I drink Smart Water
will I raise my IQ but be less authentic?
If I choose Real Water will I no longer
deny the truth, but will I attract confused,
needy people who’ll take advantage
of my realness by dumping their problems
on me, and will I be too stupid to help them
sort through their murky dilemmas?
I take no chances, buy them both,
sparkling smart, purified real, drain both bottles,
look around to see is anyone watching?
I’m now brilliantly hydrated.
Both real and smart my insides bubble
with compassion and intelligence
as I walk the streets with a new swagger,
knowing the world is mine.

how was your weekend :: kim dower

the lab technician asks me
as she sticks the needle in my vein,
routine physical, blood rushing
up the tube as if being chased
out of my body. Fine, I tell her
all good, really good, did some things,
saw some people, ate out, got rid of shoes
I haven’t worn in years, craved ice cream,
but had no one to go with, so I went by myself,
embarrassed ordering a mint chip cone
alone in the middle of a Saturday, got over it
when I took a bite, euphoric, no longer caring
that my son was too old to take for ice cream.
Wrote a letter to my dead mother but couldn’t
read it at her grave because we cremated her
so I read it sitting at the kitchen table,
a photo of her propped up in front of me.

“Sounds amazing,” she says, my blood still flowing
up the tube, new one now as I’d filled up the first.
Where will they send my blood, and how
do they test for all the things they test for,
and what if they discover I have one?
of a million diseases one could have, something
to confine me to bed for as many days, weekends
as I have left on this earth, or what if they find
nothing? Will I start to take pictures of my food
like a friend of mine does? He takes pictures
of what he’s about to eat so he’ll remember?
what he put in his body, so if something goes
wrong he’ll know it was the yellowtail swimming?
in lime sauce or the ginger sorbet with one proud
blackberry perched on top. He keeps files of photos
so he’ll never forget what he tasted, what filled him.
I want to taste the blood being drawn from my arm,
wonder if it would taste the same as my mother’s.
“What did you do this weekend,” she asks
forgetting she already asked. I had an ice cream cone,
I tell her, took a picture of it before it started to melt,
licked a drop of blood still warm from a new cut
read a letter to my mother at her grave.

why people really have dogs :: kim dower

People really have dogs so they can talk to themselves
without feeling crazy. Take me, for example, cooking
scrambled eggs, ranting about this dumb fuck
who sent naked pictures of himself to strange women,
a politician from New York, I read about it in the paper,
start telling my nervous cock-a-poo, blind in one eye,
practically deaf (so I have to talk extra loud), all about it
and he’s looking at me, poor thing, like he thinks I’m
the smartest person he’s ever heard, and I go on, him
tilting his head, and when he sees me pick up my dish
of eggs he starts panting and wagging his tail, I tell him,
no, they’re not for you, but then I break down and give
him some knowing full well that feeding from the table
is rule number one of what you don’t do with dogs,
but I do it anyway because he wants them so bad,
because it makes me feel good to give him what he wants,
and I expound more to make sure he’s aware of the whole
political scandal, the implications for the democrats,
the hypocrisy, tell him dogs are rarely hypocrites, except
when they pretend to be interested in you when all they want
is your food, take him, for example, right now pretending
to love me so much when all he wants are my eggs, me
talking to him when all I want is to say my opinions with no one
interrupting, feel my voice roll out on a clear Saturday morning,
listen to it echo from the kitchen to the bath, up through the ceiling,
out to the sky, the voice from within, all alone in the morning
as the light from outside catches the edge of the silver mixing bowl
where the remaining, uncooked eggs sit stirred, ready to toss
into the pan, cooked, eaten by whoever pretends to want them.

boob job :: kim dower

Trying on clothes in the backroom
of Loehmann’s, a stranger invites me
to feel her breasts, a stranger trying on
dresses that don’t fit and I can see
her breasts are larger than they want
to be, and she can see I’m watching,
asks me to help zip her up and I struggle
to pull her in, smooth out her sunburned skin,
tug, ask her to shake herself in, she tells me
she just got them, didn’t know they’d come out
so big isn’t sure she likes them, not even her
husband cares, he’s not a breast man, she says,
he’s an ass man but I’m not getting an ass job,
good, I say, because how do you even get an ass job,
do you want to feel them, she asks, and I do, so I do
and they feel like bean bags you’d toss at a clown’s face
at a kid’s party, I squeeze them both at the same time,
cup my hands underneath them, she says, go ahead,
squeeze some more, it’s not sexual, aren’t they heavy,
I don’t want to have them around every day
, her nipples
headlights staring into the dressing room mirror, red scars
around their circumferences, angry circles I want to run
my finger around, you should have seen them before
I had them lifted, they were long drooping points,
couldn’t stand looking at them anymore, can I see yours
so I show her, so small hers could eat mine alive,
nipples like walnuts, do you think I should make mine
bigger, and there we are examining one another’s boobs,
touching, talking about them like they aren’t there,
don’t matter, forgetting how it felt when we were twelve
or thirteen, one morning when they first appeared
sore, swollen, exciting, new, when they had the power
to turn us into women we no longer knew.

the nudists are getting ready to pack :: kim dower

How do the nudists get ready to pack?
Do they pack in the nude
or do they dress to get in the mood?
What will the nudists pack
when the nudists are ready to pack?
Clothes so bare of threads only the nudists
can see them?
Clothes without zippers, buttons or hooks
so the nudists can be nude again soon?
For the nudism curious, some important facts:
Nudism takes place in every corner of the globe.
Nudists have beautiful clothes they never wear
but keep as pets: china red silk blouses,
burlap trousers, angora sweaters, knee high boots
with skinny heels they put on leashes and walk.
Nude areas are isolated from non-nude areas
so encounters with clothed people are less likely:
(hey, look at the nudists!)
Our itchy turtlenecks clinging to our throats,
we will never be free of care;
not even the weakest nudist would suffer,
what on earth should I wear?
For nudists, clothing is redundant:
the skin on their bodies is the perfect outfit.
You’ll rarely hear a nudist say,
should I pack that extra jacket?

she is awakened by a hair :: kim dower

She’s awakened by a hair in her mouth.
It’s not enough to kill her, no
that would take a locomotive crashing
through her window, a train way off track

thundering through her bedroom,
the moon on its back,
simply a hair
stuck to the roof of her mouth,

her tongue working to pry it loose.
Whose hair is it, anyway?
Is it the same hair she saw
floating in the bowl of vanilla gelato

she ate before bed?
Could it be this hair belonged
to that mechanic she once knew—
they made out on the carousel swan,

kissed til their lips bled—surely
a hair or two had been dislodged,
might have settled inside the cave
of her throat, only to resurface as a wish?

Is it possible the hair was placed
in her mouth by a higher power,
a mysterious donor, to remind her
that dreams are fleeting, even in sleep? No.

No. She realizes this is the same strand
she twisted ’round her tongue
one night when she was young,
sitting straight up in bed,

shadows from her closet
moving in beside her, as she slowly
closed the knot making a promise to herself
she still struggles to forget.

dying languages :: kim dower

One language is lost
every two weeks. Researchers travel the world
to interview the last speakers.

Quiet, and you can hear what they say:
“She left the parrot in the car,”
“Cut off his leg to make it stop trembling,”

“Keep me safe from myself.”
What kinds of languages get lost?
Not ones we speak in Los Angeles

New York or Miami.
A language from a place so hot and humid
words can no longer form in people’s mouths.

A language so cruel that people have to cover their ears
so as to not be contaminated.
A language so silly each time a phrase is uttered

people in the streets die laughing.
Now and again men, women, children, goats
faint after overhearing the stupidest thought.

One language will never be lost:
the language of poets struggling to understand
why we die with one word on our lips.