On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

– Billy Collins

In honor of this week that Whit turned ten.  Thank you to Kim for reminding me of this beautiful poem.


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5 Comments

  1. Posted January 23, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Love the sound of his poetry. Especially first thing in the morning. I will definitely revisit this passage when my daughter turns 10 next year. xo

  2. Posted January 23, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Loved this- especially the image of standing at the window in the afternoon light. I do that a lot.

  3. Posted January 23, 2015 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Oh I love Billy Collins. This is a new one to me, but it’s perfect.

  4. Michelle
    Posted January 23, 2015 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Thank you for sharing.
    I love Billy Collins but I haven’t read this one in a long time.

    That final stanza is killer.

  5. Emily
    Posted January 24, 2015 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Stunning poem — this one sliced right through me. Thanks for sharing it!