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

  • (10/10/2018 6:17:00 PM)


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

    0 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • (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

  • Ugwu Erochukwu Shedrach (9/8/2018 4:33:00 PM)


    Beautiful (Report) Reply

  • (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

  • (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

  • (6/3/2018 9:34:00 PM)


    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (Report) Reply

  • Panmelys 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

  • Panmelys 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

  • Panmelys 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

  • (4/5/2018 4:39:00 PM)


    Screw you this poem sucks (Report) Reply

  • Damion Hamilton (3/9/2018 6:44:00 PM)


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

  • (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

  • (2/13/2018 12:15:00 PM)


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

  • (1/7/2018 1:46:00 PM)


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

  • Sylvaonyema Uba (2/6/2017 11:42:00 PM)


    and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag.

    A mathematical expression of poetry.
    Well expressed thoughts and feelings.

    Sylva.
    (Report) Reply

  • (1/4/2017 6:00:00 AM)

    tom allport
    a sad poem of forgetfulness and sorrow. (Report) Reply

  • Wes Dixon (11/25/2015 3:05:00 PM)


    One of my favorites...one of several I memorized so I can carry it with me always... (Report) Reply

  • Panmelys Panmelys (3/28/2015 8:14:00 AM)


    One who can critic is mediocre, so I'll just keep my thoughts to myself, my school motto was: Think of all you speak, but speak not all you Think. It's often helped in many instances in life ramble. A good poem all the same, well
    organized. Panmelys
    (Report) Reply

    (4/5/2018 4:38:00 PM)

    Screw you this poem is terrible

  • (2/6/2015 11:50:00 AM)


    Mostly what I like about Collins is his great sense of humour.... But this poem is so sensual, so wonderfully written, so intimate - I like it on its own! (Report) Reply

  • (9/18/2014 12:56:00 PM)


    Well, I find it hard to believe that Billy Collins suffers this forgetfulness, for his mind is still so sharp and his poems to clever and articulate. But this definitely speaks to me. I tried one on this same subject, not realizing that Collins had beat me to it - and, oh, so much better. Along with Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, and Andrew Hudgins, he's #! on my list of living poets. But, alas, I have no memory of how I first learned of his work. (Report) Reply

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# 65 poem on top 500 Poems

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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



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