The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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Those kids who age prematurely:
at seven already sclerotic & gray.
& I too! Though at first glance
I seem a man long past his youth,
just a day or two back I was a boy
tossing a softball in the schoolyard.
This wretched, incurable curse!
One moment of sheer, exuberant joy
& the next you’re deaf, bent, gasping
for breath, flesh yellowed & splotched,
& hands that never stop shaking.
I turned seventy this year, and I found Steve Kowit’s poem “Progeria” [July 2014] to be quite poignant. I even sent it to some of my former classmates. I do not share Don Perryman’s feeling [Correspondence, October 2014] that the poem is “obscene” because it compares the aged to those afflicted with the aging disease progeria.
In the letter immediately preceding Perryman’s, Dan Mesh describes his reaction to Joe Wilkins’s short story “Boys, Ten in All” [August 2014]. He writes, “We are all children trapped in progressively aging bodies.” This is what I felt when I read “Progeria.”
I respect your editors’ literary tastes, which is why I’m so perplexed by your decision to publish Steve Kowit’s poem “Progeria” [July 2014]. It feels obscene to compare the “curse” of normal aging to the very real curse of the aging-disease progeria. Those who’ve read Rabbi Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People know about the horror and heartbreak his whole family endured as his son, Aaron, wasted away in his early teens from that condition.
Why print yet another bitter account of life’s unfairness? How does that help any of us live? At the age of sixty-eight I’ve weathered challenges from prostate trouble to a brain tumor, and I’m grateful and happy to be here.