All That’s Known by Alan Walowitz

All That’s Known

My mother fallen, hip cracked, now replaced,
sits slumped in the hospital chair,
where the nurse and aide have plunked her
like a half-filled bag of laundry
no one’s hurrying to reach and make clean.
She seems to wait for nothing
and not to be able to say,
she who would talk to the wall I was
till she was blue in the face.
But what’s unsaid makes a life—
and this late hour I’m finally ready to hear:
Tears instead, despite her effort to stanch them,
she who once proclaimed the ice water in those veins,
and though the color’s drained from her glacier-face
what flows away is proof
that everything I’ve heard her say
about herself is wrong.
All that’s known of anyone is tiny,
an iceberg perched and dancing on the sea,
compared to what sits brooding far below
secret and unfathomable.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: The emotional center of this poem pivots around this line, “…what’s unsaid makes a life”, while careful line breaks carry the reader along the current of the narrator’s realization.

6 thoughts on “All That’s Known by Alan Walowitz

  1. So much is left unsaid in life. Sometimes we wait too long to say what we really feel and sometimes we realize that what we thought about a person is not really true. I think everyone can relate to your feelings as we have all experienced them at some point. Oh if we could only go back years and relate differently from a different understanding of each other .


  2. Are you kidding me? Now I know why I waited so long to read this–it’s really too sad for me to bear and yet I .allow myself to be seized by the scalding truth of your inner life captured on the page, at the same time, reverberating deep in our hearts and marking the walls of our lives, lately.

    Thanks for having the courage to discover these rich dark places and of course to share them so starkly, so beautifully.



    • It seems like a long time since we were sitting with Esther in Flushing Hospital, but those moments, in particular, are very present in me. I hope I’ve captured the way I felt (and the way you felt, too). Though I wouldn’t want to go back there, I do miss her every day.


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