April 16, 2010

Embrace the senile genius
Watch him reinvent the wheel

Scott Kannberg, SM in Japan, 2010

Suburban Pastoral
-- Lisa G. Stonestreet

Maybe there could have been
another life that led us here,
where we ended up:

mapless, dehydrated, telling stories
about cruelty to insects, about
setting little fires—tiny gods

with magnifying glasses. We could
have moved into another house,
maybe the one next door

with the rats, or the other side
with the dandelion problem.
French doors instead of sliding glass.

We got the ants, the picture window.
Plan A, berber, gazebo. Afternoons
where every moment slid down

silently into the moment before:
piling up like cigarette ends,
merit badges, a single summer

of sawdust and parch. Maybe another
life like that, one where it wouldn’t matter
how many fires, how long we ran the taps.

-- 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.


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