Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

Child Development - Poem by Billy Collins

As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name-calling.

Every day a new one arrives and is added
to the repertoire. You Dumb Goopyhead,
You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor
(a kind of Navaho ring to that one)
they yell from knee level, their little mugs
flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out
in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying
to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.

They are just tormenting their fellow squirts
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call them names after thanking
them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.

The mature save their hothead invective
for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
or receding trains missed by seconds,
though they know in their adult hearts,
even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed
for his appalling behavior,
that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids,
their wives are Dopey Dopeheads
and that they themselves are Mr. Sillypants.


Comments about Child Development by Billy Collins

  • (1/7/2018 8:42:00 AM)


    What is this idiocy of having a robot read the poem in a video depicting a cloudy sky and a tiny fragment of some ugly apartment complex? It's one thing to find good poem in an ugly place; it's another to create an ugly place for a good poem. (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Sylvia Frances Chan (12/16/2017 4:53:00 PM)


    A very impressing poem, I have enjoyed this very interesting poem, such a pleasant treat. A TEN and much more for the Voting. CONGRATULATIONS for The Poem of The Day, Billy! (Report) Reply

  • Subhas Chandra Chakra (12/16/2017 9:46:00 AM)


    The mature save their hothead invective
    for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
    or receding trains missed by seconds,
    though they know in their adult hearts,
    Lovely, humorous and enjoyable.
    Thanks for the poem and congrats for your poem being picked.
    Subhas
    (Report) Reply

  • (12/16/2017 9:06:00 AM)


    who you callin' a fatuous Enlightment hack? S. Johnson. (Report) Reply

  • Glen Kappy (12/16/2017 8:09:00 AM)


    I’ve read this one before, but that didn’t stop me from smiling. There’s much to like in this poem, but I’ll just briefly say that Collins was deservedly one of America’s Poet Laureates. -GK (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (12/16/2017 3:04:00 AM)


    Their fellow squirts! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

  • (12/16/2017 3:02:00 AM)


    Children are supposed to be as happy and full of frolic and play as all living beings in the spring-time of life ought to be.......Very informative and edifying indeed told amusingly.........thanks for sharing (Report) Reply

  • Bernard F. Asuncion (12/16/2017 2:23:00 AM)


    Such an interesting write by Billy Collins👍👍👍 (Report) Reply

  • (11/15/2016 2:29:00 AM)


    A well written Cacophony (poetic device) (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (12/19/2015 10:48:00 PM)


    Oh, yes! Let's hear the truth, Billy Collins, in your way and humorous tone! I tire of all those angelic children lisping sweet words (Report) Reply

  • (10/25/2015 6:08:00 AM)


    Pretty well on the money and light-hearted too. (Report) Reply

  • A Reynolds (10/17/2014 2:25:00 PM)


    Truest poem I've ever read. (Report) Reply

  • Darkangel Flyfree (11/6/2011 9:36:00 PM)


    this poem is one of those precious poems ever to every living soul if ever understand the poems words and real intention! ! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • (7/16/2009 10:22:00 PM)


    Hey I thoroughly enjoyed it......it was hilarious! ! ! and sooooooo true. (Report) Reply

  • (4/23/2008 3:32:00 PM)


    Billy Collins is a degenerate Robert Frost. A man who slaps his knee at the end of the poem and points at the crowd like he recreated poetry. (Report) Reply

  • (11/13/2006 12:21:00 PM)


    This poem is cute... I know how little kids name call and I can picture a lot of little kids saying these things. I work with kids 5 1/2 months- 15 years old at a health club daycare. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: fish, children, child, beach, fishing, thanks, work



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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