BEST FRIENDby 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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