I recently became aware of a fascinating blog by David Hilfiker, Watching the Lights Go Out.  David is a 68-year-old retired physician living in Washington D.C.  He is a member of the Eighth Day Faith Community.  In 1990 he and others founded Joseph’s House, a home for homeless people with AIDS and cancer. He writes, teaches and lectures about poverty, politics. In September 2012, David was diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s Disease.  He write his blog to dispel some of the fear and embarrassment that surrounds Alzheimer’s.  I encourage you to follow his journey into forgetfulness. Go to Blogs I Follow on the right hand side of my blog and click on Watching the Lights Go Out.

I found the poem below, Forgetfulness by Billy Collins, on David’s blog, his nod to the sometimes humorous reality of his condition.  Billy Collins is a former United States Poet Laureate  for the State of New York and the United States. Poet Stephen Dunn says, “We always seem to know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going.  I love to arrive with him at his arrival.” For me that is an apt description of the poem below.


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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3 Responses to Forgetfulness

  1. You could never imagine how wonderful it is for me to find this blog in this moment. Thanks!

    • I’m so glad to hear that! I almost took this post off the blog yesterday because the formatting of the poem is so not the way it looks when I created the blog; no matter how I fiddled with it, it came out crowded. Your response is one more instance of “God is already there” when our efforts seem confusing or futile.

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