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American Life in Poetry: ‘Lost in Plain Sight’ by Peter Schneider

By Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

I don’t suppose there are many of our younger readers who have started to worry about the possibility of memory loss, but I’d guess almost everybody over fifty does. Peter Schneider lives in Massachusetts and this is from his book “Line Fence,” from Amherst Writers and Artists Press.

Lost in Plain Sight

Somewhere recently

I lost my short-term memory.

It was there and then it moved

like the flash of a red fox

along a line fence.

My short-term memory

has no address but here

no time but now.

It is a straight-man, waiting to speak

to fill in empty space

with name, date, trivia, punch line.

And then it fails to show.

It is lost, hiding somewhere out back

a dried ragweed stalk on the Kansas Prairie

holding the shadow of its life

against a January wind.

How am I to go on?

I wake up a hundred times a day.

Who am I waiting for

what am I looking for

why do I have this empty cup

on the porch or in the yard?

I greet my neighbor, who smiles.

I turn a slow, lazy Susan

in my mind, looking for

some clue, anything to break the spell

of being lost in plain sight.

Poem copyright 2006 by Peter Schneider, “Lost in Plain Sight,” from “Line Fence,” (Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2006). American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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