by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Poem to Forget

Let’s forget everything the two of us
Let’s unknow everything we think we know
Unlove everything we think we love the two of us
Yes because this world is the two of us dancing
to a tune played by our school orchestra
remember how that sounded? What a joke!
Now forget that cacophony too
What has passed between us is beyond memory
memory as useless as lost luggage
waiting to be claimed at the Hauptbanhoff
back in the days before terrorists and bombs
before all the trash cans disappeared
But that’s not a concern any longer for us
since we are forgetting our history
For what is history but war war war
But we can still have the last laugh the two of us
if we forget the names of the kings and the presidents
Forget too the names of the rivers and mountain ranges
all of which existed before names
pinned them like dead insects to beautiful maps
They will still stand tall or run fast after the two of us
no longer know what to call them
call one that thing which is moving
call the other that which does not
What difference would it make?
Let’s forget too the names of the little cars and the big trucks
and of a certain fancy German automobile
you once owned in a life before you became a poet
ie a woman famished for words
Now become an amnesiac with me friend
a woman emptied of all the easy ways of knowing
Listen to the wind wailing through what we used to call mountains
Listen to the rocks grinding in that water we used to call river
So like the cries of those we once loved
Forget! Forget! Give up their names
as we gave up their bodies
give up this pain
for which there was never a good name anyhow
Grief too damn short like a sneeze
and no gesundheit to cure it
Yes let’s forget and keep on forgetting
Forget all we owned the two of us
Forget our unmade beds our silence the stars
Let’s forget the sun
which has done us in the end so little service
Forget our teeth! Forget eternity!
Forget how we loved each other the two of us
I’ll forget your mouth
if you’ll forget mine

Originally appeared in Chelsea, 77 (2005)