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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