Knock-knock by Owen Lewis


Knock-knock! Who’s there?

Ultimately for all, it will be age. At first, it seems like a bad joke—needing a cane, memory loss, more care, forgetting even one’s own name. In Knock-knock, Lewis creates the persona of an older physician who should’ve known what’s in store. Sometimes the reality is grim, but there’s humor, love, and even romance in his inventive and poetic story-telling. “Lost-and-found / is not a planned / destination.” Yet we all eventually find ourselves there.

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  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 54
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: March 2024
  • ISBN 978-1-962847-01-8


Old age is no joke.  The body breaks down; the mind wanders away.  For many, if not most, aging is existentially challenging and physically demeaning.  And yet Owen Lewis’ Knock-knock finds a variety of entry points into this penultimate human experience.  The eighteen poems (in the numerology of the Kabbalah, life) gathered here range from mild ruminations on the disconcerting experience of loosing and forgetting inconsequential things, to more intense poems, exploring critical conditions: impaired ambulation, deterioration of vision, cardiac failures. Like all good healthcare providers, Lewis – a medical doctor, himself – is always writing toward the fear of mortality that lies at the heart of aging, and that frightens most of us, nearly to death.  Through poetic storytelling, deep empathy, psychological courage, and a gimlet eye, he finds both solace and meaning (and yes: sometimes humor) in this  phase of life. —Kate Daniels

Knock-knock is a sophisticated chapbook about aging and the brain by a prize-winning poet and professor of psychiatry. The poems come to the reader in a variety of shapes, moods and sounds. The book opens with the speaker’s tender first encounters with such age-related issues as the use of a cane for mobility and the occasional challenges of memory. Music is an important element (and subject) in the subsequent poems about more serious symptoms and the fears they inspire. Only a clinical expert in diseases of the mind could have constructed the drama of the scenes that follow. —Michael Salcman


A Squirrel from Years Ago

It’s any morning for him—quick errands
across the patio, surprised by me, stops,
sizes me up, rushes off to his acorn stash.
By a wood’s edge, an ironwood uprooted–
a squall as I slept?—what more have I missed?
Its leaves have already begun to gray. The fallen
trunk is poised like a bridge angled up
touching memory—
another fallen tree,
long ago waiting in a boyhood’s wood,
its top branches sweeping beyond the visible.
We aim it, a neighborhood crew on board
this rocket ship, departing for space zones
light-years ahead, the edge of known galaxies
beyond our neighborhoods of knowledge
launching into unimagined lifetimes . . .
I open the backdoor like a hatch.
The squirrel, up on its haunches, quizzes me—
what are you doing here? What am I doing here?
We’ve landed in modern times.


Owen LewisOwen Lewis, author of three prior collections of poetry and two chapbooks. Awards include the 2023 Guernsey International Poetry Prize, the 2023 Rumi Prize for Poetry, The Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award (best man) and the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Field Light was a “Must Read” selection of the Mass Book Awards. At Columbia University he is Professor of Psychiatry in Medical Humanities and Ethics.

Additional information

Weight 4 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in