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.

All material copyright © 2000 . All rights reserved.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to