Forgetfulness

September 23, 2006 at 6:01 am Leave a comment

Billy Collins

Listen (and Watch! Billy Collins reads)

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.

Call it video poetry. How can you not love a poet who writes poems as lovely as this one and is also tech-savvy enough to be on YouTube? Personally, the video I’m waiting for is the one with him taking off Emily Dickinson’s clothes.

[falstaff]

P.s. This is the first Collins poem on Poi-tre – an oversight I plan to shortly overcompensate for, by posting a whole slew of the man’s work. Keep watc…errr…listening?

Entry filed under: Billy Collins, English, Falstaff. Tags: .

To Edward Williams 6 March 1989

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