Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins


The name of the author is the first to gofollowed obediently by the title, the plot,the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novelwhich suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbordecided 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 goodbyeand 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 rememberit 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 riverwhose 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 nightto look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.No wonder the moon in the window seems to have driftedout of a love poem that you used to know by heart. - Billy Collins

Billy Collins