Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

Forgetfulness

Poem by 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.


Comments about Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

  • Dr Tony BrahminDr Tony Brahmin (6/25/2020 10:11:00 AM)

    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. a very fine poem. tony(Report)Reply

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  • nudrerayde (9/30/2019 2:51:00 PM)

    my ­b­est ­fr­i­e­n­d's ­ex-w­i­f­e ­m­A­k­es $68 ­A­n ­h­our ­o­n t­h­e ­c­o­m­put­er. S­h­e ­h­As ­b­e­e­n ­out ­o­f ­A j­o­b ­f­or 7 ­m­o­nt­hs ­but ­l­Ast ­m­o­nt­h ­h­er ­i­n­c­o­m­e w­As $18827 just w­or­k­i­n­g ­o­n t­h­e ­c­o­m­put­er ­f­or ­A ­f­ew ­h­ours. ­h­er­e's t­h­e s­it­e t­o r­e­A­d ­m­or­e ­g­o t­o t­h­is s­it­e ­h­o­m­e t­A­b ­f­or ­m­or­e ­d­et­A­i­l.HERE======►►.more. ★★★★★★(Report)Reply

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  • Britte NinadBritte Ninad (7/8/2019 3:37:00 AM)

    such a lovely and brilliant poem|| love so much(Report)Reply

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  • Jane Campion (7/8/2019 12:16:00 AM)

    To know that one is forgetful fosters hope.(Report)Reply

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  • eatmywords (4/21/2019 5:18:00 AM)

    this is pure comedy: D(Report)Reply

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  • Slav McDougall (4/16/2019 4:25:00 PM)

    Screw you bad poem Fallout 76 good game, just people who dont like it are toxic haters, bad people in short. Me and my buddy Jason Johnson are going to go solve a bunch of criminals, basically bad poem.(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Julia (10/10/2018 6:17:00 PM)

    Why does the reader read these poems in such a monotone? She is awful.(Report)Reply

    Raros Miguel(3/21/2019 1:04:00 AM)

    Because it's a automatically generated. Not a real person

    2 person liked.
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  • Laura (10/4/2018 4:53:00 PM)

    You have such a wonderful way with words. They paint such a creative image in my mind's eye. Thanks!(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Ugwu Erochukwu ShedrachUgwu Erochukwu Shedrach (9/8/2018 4:33:00 PM)

    Beautiful(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Rod Mendieta (9/4/2018 12:01:00 PM)

    Yes, I know the feeling. I've always loved Goethe's Erlkönig (The Elf King) poem so much that I had memorized it both in the original German and the English translation. Now I can only recall the first stanza (Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind...) Ach, shade!(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Tom Previtera (6/15/2018 5:18:00 AM)

    I used to have I Have Been One Acquainted with The Night by Robert Frost memorized. It mentions the moon as being like a clock. I should get back to memorizing it.(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Faith thomes (6/3/2018 9:34:00 PM)

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Panmelys PanmelysPanmelys Panmelys (4/6/2018 12:26:00 PM)

    I agree with Milica exercise is vital, and getting outside and walking to clear the brain and get the legs on the move.
    Happy landings wherever you are, or wherever you go. Panmelys(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Panmelys PanmelysPanmelys Panmelys (4/6/2018 12:22:00 PM)

    Just had myself tested in case of Altzheimer, apparantly no sign, so I guess it's just a normal thing to forget from time to time, and old age doesn't help the situation. Panmelys(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Panmelys PanmelysPanmelys Panmelys (4/6/2018 12:19:00 PM)

    What is nice is that somewhere there's always a positive and a negative about a poem, or poet. It does take all kinds to make a world, and im happy to be part of that great mass. Panmelys.(Report)Reply

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  • Hebron Collins (4/5/2018 4:39:00 PM)

    Screw you this poem sucks(Report)Reply

    Hallie appel(4/14/2019 1:18:00 PM)

    Wait till you are 78 and then see if it rings true or not!

    3 person liked.
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  • Damion HamiltonDamion Hamilton (3/9/2018 6:44:00 PM)

    Wow, This a very powerful and interesting poem. Thought provoking and easy to understand.(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Bjean, in San Francisco (3/3/2018 6:39:00 PM)

    Just as a haiku can give us the essence of an experience, Mr. Collins's poem gives us the experience of losing track of memories one bit at a time. As a witness to my mother's gradual loss of these memories I find it touching and true to experience.(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • y u n g g o d (2/13/2018 12:15:00 PM)

    Ayyyy it was bad and not goood and bad(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • roger mcclanahan (1/7/2018 1:46:00 PM)

    A friend sent me this poem and im sending it on to a close friend.(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
Read all 58 comments »




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Read poems about / on: fishing, poem, flower, river, war, remember, moon, dark, night, fish, swimming, rose, kiss, memory



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003