Thursday, July 5, 2012

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

Willow Rose and Molly Mace, two of my Blythe girls

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.


I forget my seven Blythe dolls' names.  I have them written in a notebook to refresh my memory.  Sometimes forgetfulness is a good thing.  But sadly, it can't be selective.  I'd love to make a list of things I'd LOVE to forget.  Wouldn't that be awesome?  I have been re-reading quite a few books I'd read years ago.  That's a plus for forgetfulness.  I get to read my entire book collection and it's all new.

It's been a hot, hot, humid summer here in the swamps, but at least we're used to it.  I feel for those of you up north who are experiencing the heat and aren't used to it.  I'm pretty much hibernating indoors and reading except when I go outside every day to water my plants and new trees.  Maybe, if I'm lucky, we'll take a vaction to the beach before summer is out.  I hope so.



BamaTrav said...

The older we get the more our brains have retained, soooo....something has to get bumped out. xo

Kelly said...

I love, love this poem! (and can so relate to it)

I rarely re-read anything, but have been plowing through my huge TBR stack instead. Read Watership Down over the weekend which I realized I'd bought 33 years ago!!! I LOVED it and can't imagine why I let it languish on the shelf for so long.

Wine and Words said...

California beach! COME COME COME. Free room and board. :)

I love that poem too. What I appreciate about the poems that you post is that they are understandable as to subject, yet deliciously written. Not obscure. And this one was so true it was almost a chiller. Not a fan of aging Marion. Not a fan at all!

Love you!

quid said...

Scary to lose our memories! I've always relied on mine. Little bits of it come and go.

Great poem, and I also vote for making a list of things I'd love to forget....then vanquishing them all!