I thought I would write about poetry. This idea didn’t just come out of the ether. My friend Pat recently sent me Billy Collins’ poem “Forgetfulness” (published in Questions About Angels, 1991). I think the poem perfectly delineates the waning of my once (if I do say so myself) prodigious memory.
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.
Here’s the link to Billy Collins’ website: http://www.billy-collins.com/.
Along with the poem: Some people seem to enjoy my photos, so I am enclosing some recent flower photos:
butterfly and black-eyed Susans
clematis, H.F. Young
black-eyed Susan vine
The words that have been going through my mind the most, though are from John Prine:
Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find Jesus on your own
From “Spanish Pipedream (Blow Up Your TV), John Prine, 1971;see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9RBgfUvymM or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG0-iWCKjsw, for example.
Do I dare to eat a peach?