retrieval, a poem

This is not a book review but a poem, for a change.

These are the vignettes that have inspired it:

In one of his daily poetry readings, Billy Collins read a poem recently that begins by setting a specific scene and therefore, as he put it, creates the impression that all the things it speaks of have truly happened. I have forgotten whose poem it was but it was beautiful; it contained a sunset, maybe an animal, as well. Billy Collins also has a poem called Forgetfulness and it ends with the moon. ‘Poetry and the Moon’ is a lecture by Mary Ruefle that I have been reading; it’s in the collection Madness, Rack, and Honey, which I was incredibly lucky to receive as a present and which is taking my mind to all the nooks and crannies it had forgotten existed. I am listening again.

Pot-Bouille is a novel by Émile Zola I once studied for a literature course (I even played The Sims with an Octave Mouret character), and that I now barely remember. The title is notoriously hard to translate. I looked back at some of my notes from that year, trying to find what I thought of it back then, and found so many other essay files: final, final FINAL, final (1), really FINAL, check biblio and print, etc., as if at some point thinking ends and the conclusion becomes definitive rather than just tired of its own nuances, exhausted from being revised over and over again. 

I had forgotten where Bulgarian poetry takes me. This reminded me that sometimes, if we’re lucky, we see things, or can wait and wait until we actually come across, the way we want to see them.

I know Luxembourg in vignettes only, through the lens of my camera: the hues of the sky as seen from my window, the brief touristy snap, the sudden art out of nowhere on the side of the abandoned house. But it is also the place where I am listening again:

And finally: waltz music is in 3/4 time, this I vaguely remember from school (but still, I had to double check). Yet when I think of a waltz, I think of Jesse and Céline, and how, when the clock struck midnight on 31 December, I saw those in Vienna who can – and also those who cannot –  literally waltz into the New Year, and also how I have never listened to this in Paris, because I only just discovered the song, but I think that, whatever corner of my mind I invite it to stay in, it will come and go as it pleases, for years, until it decides that it’s time to leave forever, quietly dancing itself out.

This is the poem:


like a poem
is never truly finished
like a lifeline 
never really feels completed
even when it seems that way
even when the gaps between its breaks
are stuffed with revelation

in some book or other
I can’t recall precisely 
yet it was recent
something or other pleasant
was constantly compared with
champagne bubble lightness
but that is only lovely 
when measured out in thirst
for stimuli without the blues

I’d like to warn against the fate
of Funes the Memorious 
but I don’t remember:
was it a curse or blessing
what Borges gave him?

so in the end 
this memory of ours
it is this:
a thing you sever
push outside yourself 
and think of as a stranger. 
are you kind to strangers? 
do you speak to them at all?

but memory is only this right now
because a poem
that is the child of all I have forgotten
and all that I can conjure up
today – or even just this second
compels me to believe:

it is a place 
that’s full of tiny little flowers
so delicate
so gentle
and so many
you almost cannot see
the thieves