'It is lost, hiding somewhere out back'

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I don't suppose there are many of our younger readers who have started to worry about the possibility of memory loss, but I'd guess almost everybody over fifty does. Peter Schneider lives in Massachusetts and this is from his book Line Fence, from Amherst Writers and Artists Press.



by Peter Schneider

Somewhere recently
I lost my short-term memory.
It was there and then it moved
like the flash of a red fox
along a line fence.
My short-term memory
has no address but here
no time but now.
It is a straight-man, waiting to speak
to fill in empty space
with name, date, trivia, punch line.
And then it fails to show.
It is lost, hiding somewhere out back
a dried ragweed stalk on the Kansas Prairie
holding the shadow of its life
against a January wind.
How am I to go on?
I wake up a hundred times a day.
Who am I waiting for
what am I looking for
why do I have this empty cup
on the porch or in the yard?
I greet my neighbor, who smiles.
I turn a slow, lazy Susan
in my mind, looking for
some clue, anything to break the spell
of being lost in plain sight.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2006 by Peter Schneider, 'Lost in Plain Sight,' from Line Fence, (Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2006). Poem reprinted by permission of Peter Schneider and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-06.


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M.C. Newberry

Tue 28th May 2019 16:29

The ability of the mind to adjust its filing system to suit the life of its
owner is always a fascinating subject guaranteed to hold the
attention. As we age it is said we can recall distant events with a
clarity that overtakes more recent experiences. That may be a
generalisation depending on the relevant importance of either in
the owner's "catalogue of content". Also - the kindness of having
more pleasant things recalled and less pleasant stuff retired to the
rear of the filing system is something for which many must surely be
grateful with the passing of the years. Keeping the mind active via
words and music can be enormously beneficial towards retaining
mental capability and poetry is surely a huge "medicinal" contribution in that respect.

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Dominic James

Mon 27th May 2019 10:03

Hmm, thanks Ted, for that forensic reminder. WCWilliams' lines come to me, The Last Words of My English Grandmother:

we passed a long row
of elms. She looked at them
awhile out of
the ambulance window and said,

What are all those
fuzzy looking things out there?
Trees? Well, I'm tired
of them and rolled her head away.

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