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.

Motion is medicine, you tell me by Alan Walowitz

Motion is medicine, you tell me

and other times you say, Medicine is motion,
and when I fail to apply the commutative property
and switch it back around,
you tell me I’m being difficult
which I’m known to be
when I don’t really give a shit,
and forget the Prime Directive:
In marriage, it’s best to go along to get along.

It also shows that day to day, Yeats was wrong:
things don’t fall apart;
they just get confused and eventually misshapen
till you can’t figure which end is up,
or what’s the subject of the sentence,
or even which of the seven classic disciplines we ought to apply
that would bring meaning to a challenging concept.
This could explain Brexit, or the National Front in France
Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, my ass–
or Pres. Trump’s one nation under God–Trust me, he says:
we’ll have the very best One;
or the existence of the God particle
which sounds so promising
that something—anything—might be holding us together.

I’ve learned reading Physics for Dummies
that a body in motion tends to stay in motion,
though I’ve noticed it’s plenty easy
these days to tumble into an easy chair and fall fast asleep
with hardly a moment’s notice, even with all the bad news
on loud and in a continuous loop.
It was said Dali, himself, preferred to nap with a tin on his head.
When it would fall and crash like cymbals on the hardwood floor
he would wake to the alarm, now rested,
wax his moustache again, and get back to work.
I guess, given current conditions,
we’d be wise to forego our next nap,
and get our asses back in gear.

by Alan Walowitz, first published in Verse-Virtual.

Editor’s Note: This rambling poem circles around the inevitable pain of living—nothing is ever what you think it is, and once you figure it out, it changes. There’s nothing to do except keep going.

Tremont by Alan Walowitz

Tremont

A history buff, I took the spot on Mayflower, which I was certain I’d recall,
but would probably never be able to find again
the way the streets wind around each other and stop dead at the Hutch,
then you have to walk under the el on Westchester
where the streets tend to have new names once you get to the other side;
or you make a wrong turn and get mesmerized
by the Thai bodegas that sell exotic flowers outside,
and Ecuadorian skin treatment joints offering lava facials,
and the China Criolla with the combination plate of chicken wings and fried rice
and platanos for $4.95 which would like to keep you company while you’re walking,
and soon you find yourself at I 95, which you can’t get on anyway without a car,
but why would you want to when you’re looking for where you parked?
This part of the Bronx, Tremont, ought to be a wonderland
of hills and rills and rocky outcrops and kids climbing trees
but it’s where Moses bulldozed right through people’s kitchens
to create the promised land, mobile effing America;
he’d make sure there were plenty of ways—north, or west, or south–
for a guy with a car to get his ass out of the Bronx.
But now it’s just a beautiful dream–half the people only have the wheels on the bus,
which go round and round and take you no farther than the city line,
and the other half can’t even find where the hell they parked.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: The rambling, long lines and sentences of this poem emphasize the wandering nature of the narrative. This is about a car, and a person, and a place, but it is also about many people and a lack of cars.

The Cost of Bread by Alan Walowitz

The Cost of Bread

I’d come home from school some days
to find Harold Dugan from the bakery truck
taking a spin on my mother’s old calculator.
Or for all I knew on my mother–
an old rumor that hardly matters now.
But she sure knew how to make his numbers work
as they spun out on those rolls of tape
and, times being tough, how to defray the cost of bread.
And he was a smooth talker, that Harold,
and school wasn’t done till three
and he owned his route
and he made his own time.

My mother kept books her whole life–
in her head and with a careful hand–
but now the numbers spin all over the page
and she can’t pin them down.
When the doctor asks her to draw a clock,
it looks like a scrambled egg,
the numbers floating in and out of the shell.
Draw three o’clock, the doctor orders,
and she says it’s too early for lunch.
I tell her, Ma, we already ate
and my mother informs me—and for my own good—
she can eat any time she damn well pleases.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: Freedom of thought is stolen from those whose minds fail with age, but in this poem, that freedom still lingers. The close of this poem reopens the beginning, but not in any way that comforts the narrator.