The other evening I attended the book launch for the last book of poetry published by Elise Partridge, who died earlier this year.
Elise, with her husband Steve, was a friend of mine, and so I went, though I hardly knew anyone there, and the ones I knew I didn't really know; they were presences when I was in the English Department twenty years before, so I more knew of them than knew them firsthand, so to speak. Sometimes this was because they were profs whose courses I hadn't taken; in fact, whether I'd taken their courses or not wouldn't really matter because, well, I didn't socialize with the professors when I was a grad student.
Then there was the book launch itself, a series of readings of poems from the book, some of them very interesting, but the most interesting moment (not counting the moment when a street person tried to crash the party and steal the donations money) – the most interesting moment or reading for me was of an excerpt from something from the Museum of Natural History about how only 10% of species are even discovered before they become extinct. (I wonder how we know that, but the point is, this resonated with me, along with my feeling of knowing and not-knowing, and along with hearing Elise's poetry, so that eventually I wrote a poem of my own, and here it is:
At the Book Launch
Meeting people I used to not know
Hello, how are you, who are you again?
What are you up to now?
Not that I knew then.
Where did it go?
90% of species exist without ever being known
And then they're gone.