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What’s Left
by Connie K. Walle
68 poems, 89 pages
Price: $15.00 US
ISBN: 978-1-936657-39-1
Publisher: MoonPath Press
To order:

Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

As I prepared to write this review, I imagined walking with the poet Connie Walle. As we
walk, I ask her questions about her childhood, about the people and experiences that
shaped her life. Over tea she begins to open the book that is her life, saying, Come with
me, this is a journey birthed in April, ripened in July, harvested in October and enjoyed
to the full in December.
Indeed, I am hard-pressed to recall a collection of poetry as full
of the seasons of life as this one. Note that the title does not include a question mark. The
poet knows that those who read this remarkable collection will draw their own
conclusions about what is really left when one lives life to the full.


The poet shapes her collection around three major headings: Spinning (15) poems;
Looking for Love (21) poems; and Going through Life Backwards (33) poems. This
broad outline features gradual increases in the number of poems. Within each division the
poet develops progressive patterns of youthful love, marital love, and love tested through
the trauma of disease and death. Through each of these life-stages, the poet’s immersion
in the meaning of her life, the awareness of how her life interacts with significant others
increases, becoming ever more nuanced.


Section I opens with an epigraph from novelist Kat Zhang, (b. 1991). “But understanding
a thing and accepting it are so very different things.” The quote comes from What’s Left
of Me,
the first installment in Zhang’s trilogy, The Hybrid Chronicles. Naturally, I sensed
an affinity between Walle and Zhang. In Zhang’s novel, persons in her “alternative”
universe are born with two souls; they possess separate human identities. I recall my own
youth with its conflicting emotions “no longer a child, not quite an adult.” In the section’s
title poem, the poet struggles to “spin things that happen to her into poems” before they
take flight, never to return in quite the same way. Not Everyone, catalogs seven places
that part company with the sentiments voiced in the poem’s epigram, Everyone has a
spot where they feel comfortable and safe.
This poem made me think about “my” safe
places. Gym Class, 1952, made me smile as I recalled my own awkward moments with
girls. Gym class activity: dancing lessons,

She practically drags Robert
onto the floor in front of me.
I smile, say “Don’t worry,”
(I know all the steps.)

. . . . . .

I walk to my next class, realize
the small of my back is wet and warm
where his hand held me.
Wet and warm. Where he held me.

Looking for Love

I enjoy Walle’s uncanny knack for illuminating familiar themes with fresh fervor. The
poems, which feature interesting titles such as, Untimely, Burning Word Festival at
Whidbey Island, Love Unto Death,
and I Don’t Have Hot Flashes, I Have Power Surges
drew me in, stirred my interest. As I savored them, I realized the poet had taken my hand
and was leading me down the forgotten halls of my own experiences. Literary critic Mark
Doty has noted, “The staggering thing about a life’s work is that it takes a lifetime to
complete.” Walle, in the title poem, employs the poetic device of irony in an
unforgettable commentary about love, seasoned over a lifetime,

Looking for Love

I hear the rumble
from deep within,
feel the shift of
tectonic plates.
Try to balance myself.
Hear the echo from
that hole we try
all our lives to fill.
Realize I’ve failed again,
as you slam the front door.

Going Through Life Backwards

This attention-getting title made me wonder why the poet chose these particular words. I
urge you not to skip this poem; in it Walle presents an unusual take on life. As the poet
ruminates on the challenges, ironies, setbacks and joys of aging she gently lifts a curtain
revealing familiar things, as in My Fear, a poem about memory loss,

Not the smell of burning ash,
nor a cold dark grave,
but a chilling mist
that steals words, names,
end of sentences, memories.

A younger woman who stands
In front of me, holds tight
her smile, eyes filled with water,
as I ask, “Who are you?
Why are you here?”

The poems in this section are sensitive treatments of the aging process, at times defiant as
in Cancer is a Four-Letter Word, at times accepting of the inevitable as in The Silence of

So much of life happens inside our heads, where even our best friends cannot see. In this
remarkable collection Connie Walle builds bridges between the inner and outer worlds
giving her readers both comfort and hope.

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