Thursday, May 8, 2008

Poetry Break

It's been a hectic week getting ready for vacation; I apologize for missing this weekly feature yesterday. But here's an appropriate one from one of my favorite contemporary poets, Billy Collins. Enjoy!

Forgetfulness

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall

on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

— Billy Collins

3 comments:

Cootamundra W said...

Oh how lovely!
If I once knew this poem, I had forgotten it (ha ha)- thank you for sharing it.

Mauigirl said...

Wonderful poem. I love Billy Collins.

The river - isn't it Lethe? If it is I'm really proud I remembered that!

My solution for all of these lost memories is now Google! It used to be I'd just wrack my brain and hope the answer came to me in the middle of the night. Now I have Google!

But I have also learned to accept the memory loss with a certain amount of peace. If it isn't something that will keep me up nights wondering about, sometimes I just say "Oh well..." and let it go...

G said...

Wonderful poem, and so, so true. Sure, we were once able to reel off the names of the Muses, the Greek and Roman gods, the titles of all of Faulkner's novels, and the names of the characters in a score of others. If you're Catholic, there were The Beautitudes, and all the sevens ( Deadly Sins, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Works of Mercy) as well as the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross. I am not saddened by my inability to name these. They have simply receded into a vague but colorful tapestry that remains a touchstone and reminds me of who I have always been. The things I can reel off now (names of roses, parts of an IEP, my various user names and passwords) will eventually become part of the tapestry and be replaced by other, more timely lists. Wow! One poem sent me into all this. Excellent poem, excellent memories. Thanks, Sue.