Poets Online Archive

Forgetfulness is Our Curse and God's Blessing.
It is something we continually do unintentionally, and try desperately to do intentionally.

The poem we looked at for this prompt was "If You Forget Me" by Pablo Neruda from Full Woman, Fleshy Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems. It's a poem that considers what a lover might do so that he is not forgotten.

Write a poem starting with some notion of forgetting. Consider before you begin, variations such as the politics of forgetting , the science of forgetting and - as with Neruda's poem - the art of being remembered as an antidote to forgetting.



I thought I had forgotten kissing that boy-
the one I first  thought I loved.  It was October.
It had just started snowing, and we stood
by the road at the edge of a cornfield,
in full view of my neighbor's farm.
All at once we both said "I love you."
It was easy.

I thought I had forgotten how his lips
could be both warm and cold at once.
How his tongue slid past my teeth into
the melting center of my mouth.
The way the snow was-- first  sharp stars,
then perfect tiny globes, then small, warm,
wet shadows on the collar of his denim jacket.

Amazing that I have not forgotten our young
breath mixing in the cold, bright mist rising
to meet the snow coming faster, weighing
on our shoulders, our bare heads and  hands,
gloves forgotten on the frozen ground.

Svea Barrett-Tarleton


The world is full of made things
that do not require
our remembering.
It's different with ghosts.
If we're still alive, they
find it difficult to leave
the warm beds of our bodies,
but must, of course,
when summoned, say,
by an old lover who has us
on the tip of his tongue.
We might experience this
as a malaise,
a bubble in the gut.
The sinuses can empty and throb
for days.
It's no easier
for the already-dead.
The afterlife is one long moteless
Sunday to them,
and while they enjoy being asked
to our tea parties,
they exhaust easily.
Before you know it
they're gone,
scurrying upstairs
to flatten themselves
under the photographs
like bats.
We say we want
never to be forgotten,
but think of Socrates
still drowning in his questions,
or your poor father forced to rise
from the floor only to fall
and rise again.
At these times
the dead can remember only
what they'd wanted to forget:
the funeral faces hovering.
They thought Death
had forgotten them, but no,
he'd remembered after all.

Mary DeBow


"Sorry, I didn't mean to be so morbid . . . Honestly, I'm as weary as you must be of self-pity masquerading as poetry... Please, jump in anywhere.  I'm dying here."                 "Good Intentions"  - Neal Bowers

Isn't that great?  Don't you just love that?
It slaps so much of truth it leaves a hand-mark on your cheek.
Snap out of it.  You haven't forgotten life, have you?
It's too depressing being around you.
Remember before,
before you knelt in that poem?
What sins have you eaten that are so special?
Everyone else has the same diet around here.
Where are your prayers,
and why is your air so uniquely heavy?
You need some sun.
The dead are laughing at you, you know; they have more color.
Your only disaster was in thinking confession and washing the dirt off
was good for the soul; all it did was turn you into a mole.
I see that your tires got ripped to shreds in the car wash today.
You were stuck in reverse instead of neutral.
Doesn't that tell you something... poet?



you didn't say goodbye this morning
or yesterday for that matter
though i venture to say you had
other things to think of
but still two mornings in a row?
i can remember when
we dared not part even for an hour
without saying goodbye.
now look at us,
you leaving as if you were
being set free, like some bird
too long caged.
and me pretending that
i could care less.
but is it really pretense?
that may be the saddest
truth of all,. once discovered.
if i held you close could you still
walk away without so much as a
sound, even a whisper?.
it took us all these years to
empty our hearts of youthful passion
and thoughts of eternal love.
Now look at us,
how slowly we forgot

ray cutshaw


I'm angry with myself
for forgetting to bring the strudel
and I'm even angrier
since I remembered forgetting the cookies as well --
Not that I planned on bringing the cookies
since I only just remembered the cookies
home in the mason jar
next to the strudel

Ron Lavalette


I didn't want to tell him
that what he thought were bubbles
evanescing up my crystal flute of youth
were really counterweights on chains,
my ankle shackled to the other end.
I didn't want to say it didn't matter
was the glass half empty or half full,
only that it wasn't champagne at all
but piss, and I was going down.
I didn't have to say that happily ever after
ended with once upon a time,
that the stories he told were not my life,
that the crows picked out my eyes and laughed
as I hacked off my own heel to fit.
But I told him every tale,
left him trembling and resigned.
I resign, my father said.
As father.  Man.  And Name.
And I could see the trap of memory,
a breadcrumb trail stretched out
into the dark woods ahead
to sugar-sweet walls of make-believe
where inside ovens burn
with real, real fire.

R.G. Evans


Temptation to get a tad closer, than safe,
to that orange-red pyre of Beauty and Power
caused us to play until we were burned.
How should we know, from the stir of a leaf
that the tiniest wind , slipping into our bower,
could send the flames higher?
                                           Just what have we learned?

Though we've been burned and marred by the fire,
why not recall how we built it at first
(the kindling, the bellows, the glow that inspired
us to share the thrill of the flame's warming burst
as it threw back the shadow and cold of the wood);
and forget all the scarring !
                                      (We would - if we could !)

Catherine M. LeGault


They say the body has a memory
places where maps aren't needed,
but I could never follow directions
getting lost almost expected.

Places where maps aren't needed:
your hands, the small indentation between throat and breastbone
getting lost almost expected
taking pleasure in the long scenic route.

Your hands, the small indentation between throat and breastbone
waking up my memory's hills and valleys of longing
taking pleasure in the long scenic route
curving just out of sight, a home I never knew.

Waking up my memory's hills and valleys of longing
an arduous climb to trust, the slide into  forgiveness
curving just out of sight,  I home I never knew
map or compass of no use in this territory.

An arduous climb to trust, the slide into forgiveness
then forgetting a man you are not and remembering the woman I am.
Map or compass of no use in this territory,
but they say the body has a memory.

Cheryl Soback


In time, the reasons for this
will become as faded
as your first memory of home,
shadowy image
blurred blue carpet
immense stair tower
the way light hides in corners

the pain will release
finger by finger
turning you to the void
of other days

mornings will come
when you will wake

and think of something else

Michelle Cameron



I forgot what they contain,
The lists of Things To Do,
The lists I made to remember
The things I'd prefer to forget,
And have in fact forgotten.

I remember where the drawer is,
The drawer of pens and paper,
Where lists of Things To Do were laid,
Left to linger or to locate
Their own perfect path
To their own demise.

I just remembered;
Listlessly, I'd forgotten.

Ann Steiner


The journey forward
reveals little of the past.
There are pages missing
from my journal.
Entire chapters
have been stolen.

Disconnected shadows

Flaming meteors
of forgotten moments
explode in the ionosphere
raining embers
of my existence,

Barbara Templin



Like finally turning away from the grave site
Leaving the library empty-handed after hours
Or stepping into the next room and forgetting why
Sometimes it's like going for a drive to nowhere
Scrubbing a clean thing once again with vigor
A nice cup of tea rediscovered hours old and cold
Other times converting the favorite shirt to rags
Thinking of someone else while making love and
Not minding the shame of knowing this even before
Praying that it's a full moon when you know it's not
Smug that the plane crash on the news is so far away

Once in a while it's a much simpler predicament
Looking for glasses which are perched on your nose
The jangling key chain subdued and hidden in the knob
Getting grey and wondering what to do when grown up
Frightening oneself with insights and self-deceptions
The mere utterance of mere words you swore never to say
These and other lunacies are the guideposts of existence
But without simplicity--the acceptance of dumb beasts
As llamas or emus glimpse without grasp or understanding
Too mum to say Stop, too everyday to avoid regard
Only more times than not it's bloodletting into time


Michael Z Murphy


I’ve forgotten how to kiss.
Not the cheek to cheek kind,
or even the light, tender ones on the lips.
I’m talking about the kind I’ve forgotten,
the one from so late at night,
the grass already was wet with dew.
We were in an open field.
It was so dark we didn’t need
the trees to hide us. We were young,
had talked for hours until we became
quiet and both looked down.
I began to pull at blades of grass,
winding them around my finger
to keep my hands busy.
That’s all I remember,
except that it was wonderful,
and I thought I’d never forget.

Anna Stevens



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