Elders and Washington Politics (This Week)
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ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Forgetfulness

Now and then on Thursdays, particularly when I need some extra time, I will post a poem I like related to aging.

Today, it is from Billy Collins - Forgetfulness

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.


And this is the poet himself, reading Forgetfulness:


At The Elder Storytelling Place today - Joanne Zimmermann: Communications Way Back Then

Comments

Gosh. This is probably your most profound post to date. Thanks, it was comfortoring in some way. Dee

Wonderful! I love Billy Collins' poetry--thank you for sharing this one.

So eloquent. Thank you.

Aw.........to the point.

I love the poem's last sentence.

And the video is a wonderful accompaniment.

Thursday poems ... a terrific idea.

This is the first thing I read this morning, I will be thinking about it all day.

Truthful, sad & haunting...

Oh boy, I can really relate to that poem. The line "it is not poised on the tip of your tongue, not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen." jumped out at me. It was somehow consoling to know I am not alone in my forgetfulness.

I, too, love Billy Collins' poetry. I had to look up the dates for when he was Poet Laureate, though -- I had forgotten them - LOL (2001-2003).

All of those memories are still in there, it's just hard to locate the right file when we need it.

I forget who said it is like every memory is placed on a different seat in Yankee Stadium. And when we want to remember something, we have to run all around the stadium and find the right seat.

My problem is that I can't remember what I've forgotten.

Memories aren't always as irretrievable as they seem, but being patient with myself while I try to "search and recover" is difficult. I've always been kind of a let's-go person, and patience STILL isn't my strong suit (especially with myself).

Marvelous poem; I love the fishing village metaphor, and I knew not what a quadratic equation was when I did learn it. So odd how a word or phrase can be right there and then scoot away like a silverfish...

Very moving and so easy to identify with the sense of loss the poem evokes for me.

Love the image of the fishing village.
I read the poem to my husband,and as I came to "the mythological river whose name begins with an L," he said, "Lethe." He's going to be 72. Guesss he's doing all right!

Great poem. What would we do without search engines?

A long time ago (when I was 65) I decided not to worry about the things I couldn't remember. Instead I would go on about my business and at some point. I would remember the name of the river or where I left the screwdriver I was using. The harder I tried to remember, the more was hidden from my sight. Mr. Collins knows where it's at.

I like this poem feature and this one is really great! May prove to be good to share as a meaningful language experience with some of my patients. For some the video may well be helpful.

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