May 2000

Barbara Lefcowitz


Barbara Lefcowitz Barbara Lefcowitz has published six books of poetry, a novel, and individual poems, stories, and essays in over 350 journals including The Chicago Review, New Letters, Minnesota Review, Kayak, Kansas Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, The Literary Review, and  PMLA, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. Her most recently published work is an essay in the Barcelona Review called "Grooves, Camouflage, and the Conspiracy of Whiteness," part of a series of experimental essays.  She is also a visual artist.

The Perversity of Forgetting    Click to hear in real audio

why pain itself is much simpler to forget than painful memories


Because such memories love openings & are remarkably capable of compression,
intruding through the smallest cracks, worm-holes, skin-pores.

Because their skins are covered with a sticky residue like figs or the honeyed 
sheaves of baklava.

In their palaces, unlike the great Palaces of Memory so esteemed by the Greeks, in 
their palaces the windows are never shut, the doors never latched.

Because they prefer slopes to plateaus & thus always roll back down even if we 
haul them to the mind's higher elevations.

Because they are linked with the antipodes of death & birth, especially the former. 
The dead forget every place they've lived or visited, the newborn only the womb & 
perhaps the remote gush of a fountain.

They prefer the blooming landscape of a child, whose thick groves of flowers are 
more conducive to hiding than the relatively sparse woodlands of the more mature.

Like plucked hair, weeds, & cancer cells, they tend to grow back, given their depth 
& stubborn tenacity of their roots.

Similarly, they are close kin of shed body-fat.

The biochemistry of their stains renders them impossible to remove completely 
unless one uses lethal detergents.

In their own way they are friendly, so much so that their hosts might not only invite 
them inside but offer food & drink long past midnight, swapping 
reminiscences—heard any good ones lately—& amusing moments. For they are, 
after all, well-known as family.




Barbara Lefcowitz: Poetry
Copyright � 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 11The Cortland Review