Monday, May 22, 2006


An interesting e-mail arrived Saturday. Its subject was "Poem called Forgetfulness by Bill Cohen" and proceeded as follows:

Dear Sir or Dear To Whom It May Concern

I would like to get a copy of Mr. Cohen's poem called Forgetfulness.Could one be e mailed to me?

My dear wife Billie Ann and I had our 50th Wedding anniversary this year and I forgot it. I need a defense and your poem might provide it.

Initially, I was confused. Had I written a poem called "Forgetfulness" and posted it on BillyBlog? I couldn't remember any such entry. Then again, the poem in question was entitled "Forgetfulness". However, I quickly solved the mystery and replied:

I think you mean Billy Collins. I'm Bill Cohen. For a second I had to think if I had written a poem called "Forgetfulness." Good luck!


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins

Billy Collins wrote the poem, and since I did a two-part post on the former poet laureate back in November, he had linked me up with the older, wiser, and better-selling Billy Poet.

Later that night, he replied:

Thank you for your kind response.. I give P.B.S credit for the error. Today someone read the poem "Forgetfulness" on the air and attributed it Billy Cohen. I am sure I'm not so far gone that I somehow I heard Billy Collins and wrote down Billy Cohen. I feel fortunate however that I was able to read several of your delightful poems published on your website. Thanks again.


Now I thought this was just a dandy exchange and wanted to share it with y'all, so I did what any self-respecting blogger would do and asked for permission:

I enjoyed your e-mail and found it interesting indeed (and flattering, thank you for the compliment). May I have your permission to post your e-mails on the site so that my readers enjoy the exchange as well? If no, that's fine, but I didn't want to just do it and have you be upset that I had posted your e-mails without permission.

Thanks much,


And yes, the nice gentleman said it was okay:

Please do if you like. My dear wife has completely forgiven me (as usual) and even restated her feeling that all of our 50+ years of marriage have been a joy and a pleasure.
Once again thank you for your response. It must be wonderful to know you are leaving something of value behind for the world through your poems.
Harvey Lewis

So, this post is dedicated to Harvey and Billie Ann (another Bill/Billy/Billie!) on celebrating 50 years of marriage! Your shining example is inspiration to me (looking ahead to April, 2045) and others, I would imagine. Have a great week....

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