the death of brain cells

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,

equation.jpgas 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, Forgetfulness

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3 Responses to the death of brain cells

  1. alakananda April 28, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    just the other day i was wracking my brains for a name i shd never have forgotten. its happening to me, who once had umpteen facts at the tip of my tongue. and one of my greatest fear is alzheimer’s. that poem u posted scares the hell out of me. to me its a horror in its own way.

  2. bvn April 29, 2008 at 3:48 pm #

    well coming into terms with it is like losing all conviction which we base on experience

    denying will be lying to ourselves

    then again sometimes its better to forget..

  3. Me February 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    N stranger than this drifting away is the enigmatic discretion of the brain cells .. some are elusive even though you hold on to them .. while some linger on to create those vivid never out of your brain images and memories ..

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