Political amnesia

November 7, 2012

Rick Kogan

(Flickr/Stijn Vogels)
Will we remember any of it?

The nasty commercials, the half-truths, the invective and the vitriol?  Elections are over; hatchets have been buried, at least for the blissful moment.

Lives go on and we forget.

Those of us of a certain age forget faster than others and some years ago the poet Billy Collins, as accessible a poet there has ever been and Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, tried to capture this phenomenon…this inevitability.

He wrote a poem titled “Forgetfulness” and here it is:

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.