March 16th, 2011

Turning to Snow

When I've forgotten the color of my socks
or even if I've already taken Wednesday's pill
I will not forget your smile, even when your name
rests dormant in my chest and on my frail breath.
When the doctor explains my various conditions
thoroughly, with all the ituses and entias
( properly dotted and crossed )
I will still play checkers backwards
and count each car passing the house.
Yet I will always love how you made me feel
and that you took the time to latch my seat-belt
because I had forgotten how or why I should do so
or when I spilled food down my front, and that
you took the time to clean up such a silly mess.
I will always remember watching you sleep after
carrying you to bed when you tried so hard
to stay up to watch the star-spangled banner,
the poem about flight written by a jet pilot and
when the wakened world turned to snow.

* * *

~ Billy Collins

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.