BEST FRIEND

by Peter Davison


Memory, till now, has kept inviting


     new printings as often as


          it re-reads old ones. What a huge

noise it makes! Songs, poems, postures, a slice


     of an opera, a warm mouthful of potato


          pizza, an amazingly sexy occurrence

on a couch in Kansas, the chalky gesture of


     a classroom teacher, the stench of a faraway


          pig farm: I never need ask it

a favor. It lets me into adjoining lives


     by their back doors, recovering nothing


          I have ever been indifferent to,

even acts omitted (the chap-lipped freckled girl


     unkissed, my scowling enemy set scot-free).


          Five senses should suffice, but memory

lends me a sixth to embrace them all.


     Without it I'd be a traffic jam of


          sensations; only with its help may I revisit

myself. Cannily selective, it guides me


     into the Heiliger Dankgesang, Sappho's ode,


          the flavor of Blatz, the color

of a mountain bluebird, the lost face


     of my mother. Memory cherishes


          every self it has ever cared for.


          Thanks, old friend. Don't let me down.



Peter Davison is the poetry editor of The Atlantic. His poems in this issue will appear in his newest collection of poetry, to be published by Knopf in September.


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