Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The art of losing

"The art of losing isn't hard to master," writes Elizabeth Bishop in a poem; "so many things seem filled with the intent/ to be lost that their loss is no disaster."

Door keys. The hour badly spent. Names. These slip away and are lost. No disaster, says the poet.

Houses in which she had lived. Places. Rivers. A continent. They grow hazy in memory. Until they too are lost.

Even you. Losing you? "The art of losing's not too hard to master/ though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster."

Write it! We do that now. Make lists of names so that we can remember from one year to the next. Make notes to oneself, little strings of words tied around one's finger. Post-its on the fridge.

So much slips away. Mostly no disaster. Less to carry forward.

Write it! Get it down before it's gone. Seventy-three years spent filling up the head. Now. The great emptying out.

Tidying up.

Slipping off the superfluous. Clearing out the attic. The basement. The boxes of photographs (black-and-white with crinkled edges, faded Polaroids). The college yearbooks. The half-finished manuscripts. So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost.

Pacing through the alphabet, trying to remember the name of a friend's daughter. Then. Trying to remember the name of a friend.

The art of losing's not so hard to master. In fact, it is a biological imperative.