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Short poem

Albert Frank Moritz (1947-)

The List

              1It occurred to me that we should write down the names of the dead.

              2Then it was necessary to have a system of measuring time
              3to write them down accurately, in order:
              4which one came first and which ones afterward.

              5At once, when that was done, I saw what poor memories we have,
              6and that everything we know is only poor memory.
              7People would talk to me of such-and-such a dead man
              8as of a great chief or evil spirit from the days of the giants.
              9But I had my list. I knew, and it was always thus:
            10the man they spoke of was a trembler and woman-beater
            11who had died in his sleep six or seven years ago.

            12Some day my list will be so long
            13that its keeper, when I am dead, will not know anything
            14about the men who had the names at the beginning.
            15Trying to know them from what I write,
            16he will know that he makes them up out of himself.

            17The list is now the dead. Never again will they
            18come back to triumph over me
            19in the fire and the darkness outside the fire.
            20I've done it. I've finally killed them. I've killed the dead.

Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Albert Frank Moritz or the Princeton University Press permissions department.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Tradition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986): 23. PS 8576 .074 T7 Robarts Library
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2004
Recent editing: 1:2004/7/22

Other poems by Albert Frank Moritz