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Barbara Hamby: Ode to Forgetting the Year

Forget the year, the parties where you drank too much, 
	said what you thought without thinking, danced so hard 
you dislocated your hip, fainted in the kitchen, 
	while Gumbo, your hosts’ Jack Russell terrier,					
looked you straight in the eye, bloomed into a boddhisattva, 
	lectured you on the Six Perfections while drunk people 
with melting faces gathered around your shimmering corpse. 
Then there was February when you should have been decapitated 
	for stupidity. Forget those days and the ones 
when you faked a smile so stale it crumbled like a cookie 
	down the side of your face. Forget the crumbs and the mask 
you wore and the tangle of Scotch tape you used to keep it in place,

but then you’d have to forget spring with its clouds of jasmine, 
	wild indigo, and the amaryllis with their pink and red faces, 
your garden with its twelve tomato plants, squash, zucchini, 
	nine kinds of peppers, okra, and that disappointing row of corn. 
Forget the corn, its stunted ears and brown oozing tips. Forgive 
	the worms that sucked their flesh like zombies 
and forgive the bee that stung your arm, then stung your face, too. 

While we’re at it, let’s forget 1974. You should have died that year, 
	or maybe you did. Resurrection’s a trick 
you learned early. And 2003. You could have called in sick
	 those twelve months—sick and silly, illiterate and numb, 	
and summer, remember the day at the beach when the sun 
	began to explain Heidegger to you while thunderclouds 
rumbled up from the horizon like Nazi submarines? The fried oysters 
	you ate later at Angelo’s were a consolation and the margaritas 
with salt and ice. Remember how you begged the sullen teenaged waitress 
	to bring you a double, and double that, pleasepleaseplease.

And forget all the crime shows you watched, 
	the DNA samples, hair picked up with tweezers 
and put in plastic bags, the grifters, conmen, and the husbands 
	who murdered their wives for money or just plain fun. 
Forget them and the third grade and your second boyfriend, 
	who loved Blonde on Blonde as much as you did 
but wanted something you wouldn’t be able to give anyone for years.
Forget movies, too, the Hollywood trash in which nothing happened 
	though they were loud and fast, and when they were over 
time had passed, which was a blessing in itself. O blessed  
	is Wong Kar Wai and his cities of blue and rain. 
Blessed is David Lynch, his Polish prostitutes juking 
	to “Loco-Motion” in a kitschy fifties bungalow. Blessed 
is Leonard Cohen, his “Hallelujah” played a thousand times
	as you drove through Houston, its vacant lots
exploding with wild flowers and capsized shopping carts.

So forget the pizzas you ate, the ones you made from scratch 
	and the Dominoes ordered in darkest December, 
the plonk you washed it down with and your Christmas tree
	with the angel you found in Naples and the handmade Santas 			
your sons brought home from school, the ones with curling eyelashes 
	and vampire fangs. Forget their heartbreaks 
and your sleepless nights like gift certificates 
	from the Twilight Zone, because January’s here, 
and the stars are singing a song you heard on a street corner once, 
	so wild the pavement rippled, and it called you 
like the night calls you with his monsters and his marble arms.

From On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author and publisher.

Copyright 2014 Barbara Hamby

Barbara Hamby was born in New Orleans and raised in Honolulu. She is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Holoholo (Pitt, 2021). She has also edited an anthology of poems, Seriously Funny (Georgia, 2009), with her husband David Kirby. She teaches at Florida State University where she is Distinguished University Scholar.

Barbara Hamby

12 comments on “Barbara Hamby: Ode to Forgetting the Year

  1. vengodalmare
    January 9, 2023

    If I knew how to translate it well into Italian, I would immediately publish it on my blog! It’s truly a wonderful poem.

    (About forgetting, I forgot to wish you well and therefore I wish you a year of happy forgetfulness).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. harkness01
    January 7, 2023

    What a delirious, delicious wonderment of a poem! Thank you, Barbara Hamby. I needed that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barbara Huntington
    January 7, 2023

    And forget the years of solitude hiding from a virus, the lack of contact making your body question and decay

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Susan Zimmerman
    January 7, 2023

    Wonderful! I love this poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Susan Zimmerman
    January 7, 2023

    Wonderful! I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loranneke
    January 7, 2023

    This is such a powerful poem! For when she says “forget” it’s there for us to remember, to revisit, to learn about, isn’t it?! I read it silently at first, but then needed to read it again, but aloud this time. Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rose Mary Boehm
    January 7, 2023

    I enjoyed this poem tremendously. For every reason.

    Liked by 1 person

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