Child Development Poem by Billy Collins

Child Development

Rating: 3.5

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.

Trevor Boley 23 April 2008

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.

14 29 Reply
Susan Williams 19 December 2015

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

28 1 Reply
Jenny Hijioka 13 November 2006

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.

19 9 Reply
Behroz Rabady 16 July 2009

Hey I thoroughly enjoyed was hilarious! ! ! and sooooooo true.

20 7 Reply
Darkangel Flyfree 06 November 2011

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

18 9 Reply
Chinedu Dike 03 April 2022

Deep and exquisitely crafted is this brilliant poem of yours, prof. A thought-provoking write.

0 0 Reply
Jose Gonzalez 01 April 2022

Even as we get older we dont lose our childish natures. Yes, our bosses are stupid poopyheads i love it.

2 0 Reply
Bharati Nayak 24 March 2021

Small children pick up foul words quickly.From where do they pick up? The poet tells it in his humorous way!

2 0 Reply
worldnotworld 07 January 2018

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.

5 1 Reply
Sylvia Frances Chan 16 December 2017

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!

2 1 Reply
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