Friday, September 05, 2008

Taking a break from labor

I've fought the poetry bug ever since Mundane Jane posted her first Billy Collins post. I'm giving in today because I want an easy post. That Mundane Jane has much to answer for. If you're like me and would rather read your literature than hear it, here's the poem. But the YouTube video is kinda cool too.

This one speaks to me because at least 3 times today I've gotten up from my desk to go and do something vitally important and had to pause at the door to remember what it was.

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.

Billy Collins

1 comment:

Mundane Jane said...

He said he wrote this one for me, you know.

I told him that it was one of my favorites.