Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Trick Is Not Forgetting

This year, I'm going to do this. Year after year, as part of our graduation exercises at our school, I write the "Senior Farewell Poem." I read it to the senior class in front of the entire school and in front of maybe a hundred parents. It's one of my favorite writing tasks.

But, I admit -- I haven't published them here because I come from a long line of stuffy English majors who would see the kind of poems I write for graduates as a kind of "pop" poetry -- a little too "out in the open". But the fact is, these poems need to be grasped at a listening by an audience that is not reading along and that doesn't have time to explicate. That, in and of itself, is quite a writing challenge. And I have decided I am proud of (I think) accomplishing it each year. In fact, I plan to add a page to this site that contains all of my "Senior Farewell" poems over the last thirteen years. But now, my poem for the Class of 2014:

The Trick Is Not Forgetting

Lean forward a little…
Here’s a secret:
You’ve been lied to.

This is the real world.

You’re not stepping out into reality after graduation night –
You’re stepping into the artificial world…
The busy world.
The noisy world.
The selfish world.
A projectile world that can cause amnesia
If you don’t watch out for all the sparkling rocks of nonsense flying around.

Guess what else?
You’re a real person right now
Surprise, again!
You’re not going to “become somebody.”
You’re someone now.  Someone beautifully real.
Maybe the most real you will ever be…

Here’s the best part,
The paradoxical part,
The old switcheroo part:

You may be wiser, today,
Than you’re going to be in the future
Because, sometimes, wisdom works backward.

The trick is not forgetting.

What if you wrote them down, right now –
The things that make you happiest? 
What if you jotted them down, 
Put them in your wallet,
And slid them out again to read in twenty years?
Would you be surprised by what you wrote? --
Later…out there, in “the real world”?

The trick is not forgetting.

If you wrote down the things that make you happy, today, and
Put them away,
And saw them again, two decades away…
What words would you find on the page?

"Working so hard I never get to sit still"?
"Owning stuff I can’t really afford"?
"Proving myself better than everyone else"?
"Keeping my grass perfect"?
"Being handsome"? 
"Being pretty"?

Or, on that yellowed slip of paper from way back in June of 2014,
Would you see words like:

Time to myself, 
Family dinners, 
The ocean, 
Running fast, 
Good music, 
Good food…
Or basking in blessings of God…?

We all know the answer.
The trick is not forgetting.

If you write it down today and find yourself surprised in twenty years, you’ve forgotten.
If you write it down today and it all makes perfect sense, in twenty years…
You’ve done things right.

The trick is not forgetting.

Remember who you are,
Today –
Right now –
With this very next breath…

You have the kind of youthful wisdom the fake world will try to take away.

The magic trick is not forgetting…
And you are the magician.


  1. I miss a lot of things about St. Joe, but your poems top the list. Well done, Mr. Matt!

  2. Of course, after reading that last line, the rest of the lyrics echoed in my head. I think I'll take this to heart and start writing those things down.

    As for the stuffy English majors... phooey on them. Poems need to be more transparent and honest, just like this one. I loved this, and I hope that all your graduates take something from it. I look forward to that new page.

    1. Alexis -- Funny -- that is a connection that I wasn't thinking about but that is certainly true -- same idea!

      I'm glad you liked it! Thanks.