Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Forgetfulness

A few weeks ago, I was listening to poetry podcasts while walking Bonnie. There were several poems I liked, so when I got home, I quickly jotted down some notes, to help me when I had time to look up the poems:
Mar 18 - Updike - Moroni
Billy Collins - Remembering?
Map
Then I lost the note. Of course.

I discovered the note again this morning (exactly where I had already looked for it twice), and immediately looked for the poems on the Writer's Almanac (before the note could disappear again). I found them all, but laughed when I located the Billy Collins poem - the title was not "Remembering," but instead was pretty much its exact opposite. (So much for my memory!)

I enjoy the humorous images Collins calls up while describing this annoying malady of forgetfulness: Memories retire to "a little fishing village where there are no phones."  What you try to remember is "not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen." What we can't change, we may as well laugh at!
Forgetfulness
by Billy Collins

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,
not 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,
well 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.
And - just so you know - I still know how to ride a bicycle. I think. Meanwhile, these days I'm laughing more and more, just on principle.

A gratuitous picture of Bonnie.
Yes, I usually remember her name.

3 comments:

  1. Cool poem. (In some obscure corner of your spleen...very nice.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha, I love that poem. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Annie, I'm with you, I love this poem. But don't laugh *too* hard - someday, you too will struggle to remember the name of that little town where you had your first job...!

    ReplyDelete