for Dean
When I was barely twenty and hardly knew

the solemnity of poetry and poets but knew
the sense of it like a young girl
knows the first flare of arousal in her body,
I heard his big voice, thick with the consonants
of Polish—the Cs and Zs disappearing
in the English folded in his round mouth,
but also the expanse of his wandering
in places like Lourdes, Krakow, Vilnius,
places of home and exile—I knew he was formidable.
It was before his Nobel Prize, before I knew what
such a prize was for a poet—and something
I only understood much later, when I bought his books,
and regretted not getting him to sign that night
when he read lines that filled me with desire—
I claimed much later: I saw Milosz before
he was famous, heard him read.
I did not know that he already was
I do not remember the details of how I came to 
that reading, but now, a middle-aged woman, I encounter
him again, this time in the passion of a man who loves
poetry as I do—who asks me questions about meter
and lines, reads me Milosz over the phone as I circle
the park walking my dog, lines spilling from his mouth
like kisses, feeding my hungry heart,
and I tell him of that night when I sat rapt
listening to the timbre of Milosz's melancholy,
and swell with nostalgia for that first
time when poetry struck me like new love
and I could feel my whole body
in it, could feel myself wander like Milosz
in fields of forgotten memory and poetry
seared itself in the soft tissue of my life.
Persis Karim was raised by an Iranian father and a French mother. She is Professor of Comparative & World Literature at San Francisco State University. Her poetry is published in Callalloo, Reed Magazine, The New York Times, and others. She was a finalist for the 2019 Catamaran Poetry Prize and a second prize winner for the Split this Rock Poetry contest in 2011. She is editor and contributing author of three anthologies of Iranian-American literature.