Forgetfulness
 
Billy Collins

The name of the author is a 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 heard of.

It is as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemispheres of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones. Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

The name of the author is a 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 heard of.

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

Long ago you kissed the names of the Muses good-bye,
and you 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.

What 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 its own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have forgotten even how to swim or 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 you used to know by heart.
 
From Questions about Angels,
published by the University of Pittsburgh Press (1999).


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Forgetfulness by Billy Collins
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