Robert Pinsky

The Forgetting

The forgetting I notice most as I get older is really a form of memory:
The undergrowth of things unknown to you young, that I have forgotten. 

Memory of so much crap, jumbled with so much that seems to matter.
Lieutenant Calley. Captain Easy. Mayling Soong. Sibby Sisti. 

And all the forgettings that preceded my own: Baghdad, Egypt, Greece,
The Plains, centuries of lootings of antiquities. Obscure atrocities. 

Imagine!—a big tent filled with mostly kids, yelling for poetry. In fact
It happened, I was there in New Jersey at the famous poetry show. 

I used to wonder, what if the Baseball Hall of Fame overflowed
With too many thousands of greats all in time unremembered? 

Hardly anybody can name all eight of their great grandparents.

Can you? Will your children’s grandchildren remember your name? 

You’ll see, you little young jerks: your favorite music and your political
Furors, too, will need to get sorted in dusty electronic corridors. 

In 1972, Zhou Enlai was asked the lasting effects of the French
Revolution: “Too soon to tell.” Remember?—or was it Mao Tse-tung? 

Poetry made of air strains to reach back to Begats and suspiring
Forward into air, grunting to beget the hungry or overfed Future. 

Ezra Pound praises the Emperor who appointed a committee of scholars
To pick the best 450 Noh plays and destroy all the rest, the fascist. 

The stand-up master Stephen Wright says he thinks he suffers from

Both amnesia and déjà vu: “I feel like I have forgotten this before.” 

Who remembers the arguments when jurors gave Pound the only prize
For poetry awarded by the United States Government? Until then. 

I was in the big tent when the guy read his poem about how the Jews
Were warned to get out of the Twin Towers before the planes hit. 

The crowd was applauding and screaming, they were happy—it isn’t
That they were anti-Semitic, or anything. They just weren’t listening. Or
No, they were listening, but that certain way. In it comes, you hear it, and that
Self-same second you swallow it or expel it: an ecstasy of forgetting.