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.
Ashley Hahn's critical analysis
In Billy Collin’s poem Forgetfulness, he describes the condition of forgetting things. He says the “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.” Collins believes it starts by forgetting the little things, then later the bigger and more important things. When younger, we forget things such as where we put our keys. When older, we forget names and faces and things that are important. It shows us the impact of the brain throughout aging. Our brain consists of different parts, and it can be deceiving to the body. It shows the way it works without explanation. The older we become, the more we begin to loose memory. Collins wrote this poem because he is entering this phase and has trouble remembering things. The things we think are on the tip of our tongue are actually forgotten. “And even now as you memorize the order of the planets, something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps.” Collins believes that every time we learn something new, we forget something else. Our brain can only hold so much information that when we take things in, we lose something with it. This poem is intended for all types of audiences. It prepares younger people for the impact, and helps older people to accept that it is a normal process. No matter what age, everyone can relate to this poem. The title of the poem, Forgetfulness, is based upon the summary of the story. It’s a simple poem about the struggles of forgetting things. The poem consists of metaphors to help understand the point better. Forgetfulness is an inspiring poem of the daily challenges of getting older.