The last couple of posts have been a bit heavy, so I’m sharing something lighter today. I first heard the former poet laureate of the US, Billy Collins, recite “Forgetfulness” on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion several years ago, long before my diagnosis, but it felt familiar then, anyway. A reader recently reminded me of it.
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
If you’re interested in listening to Billy Collins read his poem, go to
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrEPJh14mcU. I found the animation that went with his reading annoying, so I just didn’t watch it.
This poem is about dementia in general, not necessarily about Alzheimer’s, but it could still be interpreted as making light of a disease as serious as Alzheimer’s (or any other dementia for that matter). So I’m sorry if anyone is offended. I hope it’s clear that I don’t take Alzheimer’s lightly or minimize its terrible impact on the lives of so many. But in our society we can hardly say the word Alzheimer’s. It needs some lightening up.