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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