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A Love Letter To Phoenix

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Rosemarie Dombrowski received BAs in Anthropology and English at Arizona State University followed by a PhD in American Literature in 2007. She's been a Lecturer of English on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus since 2008. Additionally, she is the co-founder of the Phoenix Poetry Series as well as the undergraduate writing journal on campus. She teaches creative writing workshops across the valley and lives with her 13-year-old son who is both non-verbal and autistic.

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Dear Phoenix,

I've given you all and now I'm something.

Allen Ginsberg's tortured relationship with America circa 1956 engendered the less reciprocal poetic sentiment "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing." But now I'm appropriating (and inverting) his line for the purpose of this praise song, primarily because I first read Ginsberg's "America" here, in Phoenix. In fact, I read all of them here -- all of the lines written by all of the poets that I've ever read.

It began with Shakespeare and John Donne and the Romantic poets at my suburban Phoenix high school. At Arizona State University, I was introduced to the early Americans, the iconic Americans, the High Modernists and the expatriate Modernists, the Harlem Renaissance poets, the Beats, the Confessional School, the neo-Romantics, the Black Arts Poets, the language poets, the poets of the commonplace and the rural and the personal.

Several ASU degrees later, I played a minor role in the resuscitation of poetry in the valley. I organized my first poetry reading at a gallery on Roosevelt and 3rd St. - the hub of the burgeoning art scene in downtown Phoenix - and had my first feature reading at another gallery about a mile away. I co-founded the Phoenix Poetry Series the same year I defended my doctoral dissertation. I got my first post-doc teaching gig at Arizona State University's Downtown Phoenix campus, a mere mile from the gallery where I first read.

We - the poets and artists and scholars -- live in the heart of you, and your complex network of chambers and arteries and valves are our fodder.

And despite your political shortcomings, Phoenix, you've already proven that you can be angelic.
In 1999, my son was saved by the neonatologists and cardiac surgeons at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Ironically, even in the heart of a great city, the heart of a child can be riddled with strictures and holes. I remember staring out the frosted window of my hospital room in December, looking out onto the freeway, the main artery of the city's transportation system, thinking that this was the only tangible thing in my world. That asphalt, typically well-oiled and searing, underneath that strange layer of mist and cold, was my home. My haven.

And in your defense, Phoenix, every city in the world is filled with tears.

In Arizona, 1 in 64 children are diagnosed with autism, and my son was one of them. But you are a city filed with dedicated researchers and cutting edge facilities, from the Southwest Autism Resource and Research Center (SARRC), to the biomedical researchers at ASU, to the Center for Autism Research and Education (CARE) to the Arizona Autism Coalition to HOPE group (Honoring and Optimizing the Potential in Everyone). There were days, months, even years of my life that I wouldn't have been able to endure without the support of these groups and the compassionate and knowledgeable people who staff them.

Undeniably, I owe you the utmost gratitude -- for everything from my unparalleled education, to your artistic bolstering, to your life-saving endeavors.

But superficially speaking, Phoenix, I refuse to give up my obsession with you - specifically, your meteorological consistency, i.e. your heat.

Yes, it's true that seven months out of the year the average high is over 85.

And it's almost true that we have a Starbucks on every other corner. And most have large patios replete with misters.

And it's true that 30% of our residents have backyard pools. I heard somewhere that we have over 600,000 pools across the state.

And it's absolutely true that we have the best shopping and dining venues in downtown's City Center, Heritage Square, and Roosevelt Row. And it's unarguably true that it's never too cold or dreary or blustery or rainy to be outside enjoying them.

Phoenix, I'm Rosemarie, and I'm a Lecturer of English on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus, and I edit a journal and run a poetry series and raise a special needs son and socialize regularly in the heart and the heat of you.

Phoenix, you've given me all and now I'm something.

With love and gratitude...
RD