Doria by Alan Walowitz


We’d practiced the tent on the lawn,
but not in these conditions.
We were stubborn and young,
—old enough to know better, someone old would say—
and by the time we got the tent to steady,
the pegs deep enough in the sandy loam,
we could feel Doria drumming down the beaches
from Delaware, Jersey, then the Island.
and all we could imagine was, a gift.

We stayed up all night for the weather
but were too far to hear,
the sound coming in and out
like some trombone recorded live
from The Royal Roost, in the dark ages.
But this was where we wanted to be,
determined to make it the night,
even see a little sun come morning in its struggle to rise
over the next dune, and what it might mean
if we could find a reason to stay in love.

No sleep. Then, the wind downed a tree
around 3 in the near distance,
which sounded like a shot
and slow dying from a Western we’d once seen.
She looked at me and said she wanted to go,
as if this was something so apparent, so true,
even I must know.
I wanted to stay in the tent.
She’d settle for a cheap motel down Route 6
away from the shore.
I said we’d be safe in the car.
She simmered. I steeped.
The truth was, we could never bring much to a boil.

Instead, we drove a mile, then another,
then too many to turn back,
she in a pique and I a cocoon,
protected from the elements inside and out.
Finally, no use, she pretended to sleep, a mercy,
and I sang a song to myself
about the joys of traveling all night in a storm alone.
Got home in time to see first light over Queens,
a gentler place—or, at least, one we knew well.
I’m certain we didn’t say goodnight.
Why should we? We’d marry soon,
and be happy, just as we had planned.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem seems like a straightforward story about the end of a relationship—right up until the last line when another level of tension blows in, scattering the expected ending directly into the weeds.

Visit to the Geriatric Doc by Alan Walowitz

Visit to the Geriatric Doc

Though young, it seems like he was born for this,
the way he can tell an old guy
there’s a problem without revealing much at all.
But who could refuse more blood work—
sort of free on Medicare—
though the waiting could wear you down to a nub?
I try my oughta-be-retired Geritol joke
and he says, What’s that?
and I answer, For tired blood,
and he goes, Hmmph, with half a smile
and one eyebrow gently raised
to acknowledge—while mostly consumed by his phone—
he hasn’t the faintest what I’m talking about.
Then he chokes my arm with a rubber band to pop my vein,
no gentle man, this one, for all his politesse
and says, You’ve got good veins,
and I want him so to address me as Pop.
I’d say, Thanks, Son—cause we’re beginning to feel like family—
with all the attending discomfort
of knowing everything about each other
that we’re ever likely to know.
And this visit just the beginning;
and, sure as I’m sitting on the edge of his table
chilled in my undershirt,
it will not be a happy end.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: They say that age is just a state of mind, but it’s also stuffing your brain full of memories that young folk don’t understand. Mortality tends to catch up with us in the end, much like the last line of this poem.

A Cottage in Sag Harbor by Alan Walowitz

A Cottage in Sag Harbor

My mother showed me the photo,
the cottage, the sea, the shore
and told me we needed to go—
away from here, and him,
and everything that was going wrong.
It would be best for us all
and, she swore, it would be just a while,
maybe two weeks, a month, or the summer
if we liked. I could call it a vacation,
if my friends should ask, though I knew they would know.
And it’s nice out there and cool with a breeze
and we’d take a bus and bring only what we need.
My kid brother would thrive in the sun, the sand–
and even if not, we’d have each other,
and Dad will be fine,
he knows how to care for himself—
he can open a can of soup and make eggs.
I looked at my father, dead asleep
on the floor, and told her–
till then, the hardest thing I’d ever said–
Looks nice, Mom,
but I’m staying here with him.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: The last two lines in this poem carry the entire thing from nostalgia into purpose.

Photo of Snow in the Suburbs by Alan Walowitz

Photo of Snow in the Suburbs

The snow that began the night before fell far into the day,
leaving just enough time as the moon rises,
so we can take in some of that utter whiteness
before the cars are unshovelled and their leavings get stirred in
with all the other mess humans can make.
But for now, the snow tops the neighbor-evergreens
like a row of strollered infants in sun bonnets sleeping softly at the park;
streets still glisten where the plows haven’t hit bottom
and left a coat of ice for tomorrow morning’s melting;
no one’s out except for us who had been house-bound
and stir-crazy for a night and day of too much TV, too much wine,
and the never quite surpressed fear built into us humans
that we’ll never get anywhere again.
But here on the street the air seems cleaner somehow
that way it gets after some little cold sun
warms everything just enough to help our lungs work easy
and make us swear we’ll swear off drink and the great indoors.
You say you want to try to get a picture of it all—
the moon, the street, the snow caps, the air, the evergreens—
and you climb to the top of the pile of snow some shoveling’s made
into a modest mountain. Always the arbiter of what’s impossible,
I’d tell you it can’t be done, but you’re determined
and I wait patiently at the door instead of rushing inside where I’d prefer.
There’s no danger out tonight—by now plenty of moonlight–
even the raccoons that get more brazen each night
are tucked beneath the porches and into our basement wells.
I too want to take it all in, as you angle for that picture–
destined never to be looked at again,
you know I would be happy to say.
But mine would just be you
and I will keep it in memory’s well where
what’s truly impossible might find the perfect place
where it can permanently reside.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: This is a perfect beautiful love poem, meant to be read again and again.

The Dark by Alan Walowitz

The Dark

Though I’ve called the county plenty,
the street light’s been out for days
while I’ve struggled in this moonless winter dark
for the path to the door, crunching in the now faint footsteps
I’d previously made, and more than once fumbled my keys
and hoped I’d catch them, the way a trapeze artist
might feel for the hands of his mate in the neon circus dark.
But when they fall, as they will, I pray they’ll dent the layer of ice
that’s limned the lawn for weeks now, and might be dug out easy,
and God forbid, not have to hear them skid down the hill we live atop
and back into the street, which is the direction I’ve already come
so many times, and it’s dark down there and oh so cold.
Don’t buy a house on a hill. the inspector’d said.
You won’t be young forever.
Dark magic, that he could tell the future,
and how like me that I was bound,
as if by spell, not to pay him any mind.

by Alan Walowitz, first published in Muddy River Poetry Review.

Editor’s Note: This poem’s conversational tone deceives the reader into thinking that it is about an ordinary night, when in fact the narrator moves beyond that moment and into more mysterious places by the last three lines.

Pushcart Prize Nominations – 2017


I am happy to announce the following poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize:

Sonnet to negotiate peace with your dementia by Tracy Lee Karner

The Morning of My Madness Waking by Jim Zola

No I in Team by Ed Shacklee

The First Night by Devon Balwit

Moving Day by Alan Walowitz

After the Ghost Investigation by Christine Potter

Congratulations and good luck!

Hurricane Irene by Alan Walowitz

Hurricane Irene

Next time we’ll try and do what’s right:
tie the lawn chair to the deck,
stow in the shed what’s apt to fly,
listen close to those who know by heart
what breaks in times like these
and what might keep.

This is no age that holds bad news at bay:
the big storm brewing in the night,
and written daily in the skies.
The umbrella we forgot outside
gets called to duty in the reckless wind–
all we can do is hunker down and wait.

We find out middle of the night
more of what we might have known–
a tree comes down with whoosh and crack–
the circus sound of whip in air,
not the earth-shaking thud
we’d dreamed and feared.

We stumble out at dawn to gasp and behold
this streetscape we wished we’d memorized—
now downed trees, smashed cars, life’s debris,
chainsaws gearing up to go. All subject to change
at the whim of winds—we thought was ours
was not ours to keep.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: This poem’s impressive rhythm breaks down in the last stanza, mirroring the destruction the narrator realizes could not be helped.

Moving Day by Alan Walowitz

Moving Day

She finishes the sweeping in front of the house
and moves on to the side. There the hose is in the way,
wound and wound in uneasy arcs on the cement path,
from just before when her husband–tired now and in to rest–
had been using it in the way of the suburbs,
powering into the street the smaller debris—cigarette ash,
blades of grass from a final cutting,
and Polly Noses from the old maple which leans now,
so many years later, out over the path.
When dry they tend to stick to the walk,
even clean as she works to keep it,
though it shouldn’t much matter moving day.
In fact, I note to her, from my own driveway
next door where I’m trying not to watch too close,
but afraid I’ll never see this scene again:
Millie, it’s pretty damn clean.
Alan, I know. It’s just . . . and her voice trails off.
Last thing I mean is to discourage her
and she goes to the back, now dragging her broom,
leans against the gate, sighs, as she looks at the place
her kids and neighbor-kids and grandkids played.
There had been a swing set, screams of joy
and sometimes pain, a plastic pool, grass
now covered over in concrete, less to maintain,
and says, only partly to me, turning to go,
I guess it’s clean enough. For now.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: This poem’s narrative seems simple on the surface, but hiding beneath the characters’ actions lies an emotional wallop emphasized by the closing line. Scattered rhymes and random iambic meter soothes the reader even as the story grows more emotional.

Downsizing by Alan Walowitz


No tears when the stately old divan
departed. Only when the new owner
sawed off its middle leg to get through
the door, did it give my mother pause.
Meanwhile her three remaining pals
dutifully chose one shmata each
they’ll surely never wear themselves,
but come Christmas might offer the help.
Finally a few items had to be trashed
—moldy Good Housekeepings: recipes
she couldn’t bear to part with,
but never good enough to make;
tchotchkes varie: the alligator nut-cracker
from the Everglades, Baby Big Ben
that once played God Save the Queen,
olive oil we pressed ourselves in Spain,
surely rancid now,—then we thought we were done.
Till we looked at the glacier
that had formed in the freezer:
Interred there like a twelfth century mountaineer
hiding lost truths, were meals from lifetimes ago:
a meatloaf from the 90s buried behind
more recent triumphs; half pints of milk
smuggled from the Senior Center in case of natural disaster.
And this, a shriveled piece of wedding cake.
Ma, that was to be eaten
your first anniversary, for luck.
She pauses, thinks about her husband
long dead, longer mourned and says,
Maybe that’s why things didn’t work out
and drops it in the trash.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: Some poems are meant to convey the human condition. This one lists the detritus and treasure of a life, with a kicker of a closing.

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.