Poetry, by the way, should be heard, not read.

by Billy Collins (fast becoming, possibly, my favorite poet)

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.

5 responses to ““Forgetfulness” by Billy Collins”

  1. nana Avatar

    Thanks go to the “Poetry Ambassador” from Jonah’s side of the family!
    I sure like poems that I can basically understand the first time I read them!

  2. ben Avatar

    He did a reading at the STD conference I went to. I really enjoyed him.

  3. Berck Avatar

    I don’t think that acronym means what you think it means.

  4. Nathan Avatar

    I hope not.

  5. Jonah Avatar

    Well, does WordPress take Greek characters?

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