To a Friend Who Keeps Telling Me He Has Lost His Memory

To a Friend Who Keeps Telling Me He Has Lost His Memory

To a Friend Who Keeps Telling Me He Has Lost His Memory

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
June 16 1999 3:30 AM

To a Friend Who Keeps Telling Me He Has Lost His Memory

And yet you know that you remember me
whoever I am and it is to me
you speak as you used to and we are sure of it

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and you remember the child being saved
by some kind of mother from whatever
she insists he will never be able
to do when he has done it easily
the light has not changed at all on that one
falling in front of you as you look through it

and decades of explaining are a fan
that opens against the light here and there
proving something that then darkens again
they are at hand but closer than they are

is the grandmother who entrusted you
with her old Baedeker to take along
on the Normandy landing where it turned out
to have powers and a time of its own

but the names fade out leaving the faces
weddings and processions anonymous
where is it the sudden tears well up from
as you see faces turning in silence
though if they were here now it would still be
hard for you to hear what they said to you

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but you lean forward and confide in me
as when you arrived once at some finely
wrought conclusion in the old days that now
what interests you most of all is birdsong
you have a plan to take some birds with you

Lilly Prize winner W.S. Merwin's latest book of poetry is titled The Folding Cliffs. He is the author of The Vixen.