Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

On Turning Ten - Poem by Billy Collins

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.

Comments about On Turning Ten by Billy Collins

  • Loppo Louie (11/15/2016 1:18:00 PM)

    On Turning Ten
    Really like this poem. (Report) Reply

    10 person liked.
    10 person did not like.
  • (10/25/2016 1:45:00 PM)

    On Turning Ten
    What the hell is dark blue speed? ? ? Come on, Billy! How about just speed? All the speed drained out of it. Dark blue speed! (Report) Reply

  • Rajnish Manga (10/19/2015 12:56:00 PM)

    This is a poignant commentary on the years of life that have gone past now. As a boy grows older, he appears to be oblivious of his innocence. A quote from the poem:
    but that is because you have forgotten
    the perfect simplicity of being one
    (Report) Reply

  • (9/20/2014 1:40:00 PM)

    Captain, my captain. (Report) Reply

    Joseph Pedulla (10/25/2016 1:52:00 PM)

    You're not serious, are you?

  • (9/16/2014 1:17:00 AM)

    I'm not sure that Billy Collins has ever written the BIG POEM, the one (or two or three) that will place him up there with Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsburg, and the like. However, Collins never publishes a bad poem - not once, to my knowledge. He writes poems that are polished, thoughtful, interesting, and at the same time accessible to the Common Reader. Hurrah for Collins! (Report) Reply

    Joseph Pedulla (10/25/2016 1:51:00 PM)

    He does not have BIG POETRY in him. Doesn't anyone get that by now? He is a minor poet- if even that. I cannot abide the adulation this guy gets for his over-cogitated simplicities! He has no big poetry in him, not even if he tried. He will never be a Frost or a T.S. Eliot, because he is not so deep a thinker. He takes simple ideas and tries to make them sound profound. But they're not; they're just simple. As he is.

  • Mudnainah Farah (9/13/2013 11:16:00 PM)

    So deep, nostalgic even. You will find layers of meanings hidden under these words. (Report) Reply

    Joseph Pedulla (10/25/2016 1:47:00 PM)

    Really? Layers of meaning? Really? This is as straightforward as a ruler.

  • (2/24/2012 1:15:00 PM)

    I LLLOOOOVVVVEEEE THIS POEM! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! I have nothing bad to say! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! (Report) Reply

    Joseph Pedulla (10/25/2016 1:46:00 PM)

    You love too easily.

  • (12/23/2011 6:01:00 PM)

    I must admit this is one helluvan idea. I wonder if it could have been written in the language of ten. Compare with Christmas Tree by e.e.cummings. (Report) Reply

    Joseph Pedulla (10/25/2016 1:46:00 PM)

    Yeah, he certainly sounds as though he has the mind of a ten-year-old!

  • (9/17/2009 10:21:00 PM)

    Hmmmm. 'I felt so ashamed to be 10 years old and afraid.43 isn't much different'. Feels like a poem coming on. ;) (Report) Reply

  • (8/30/2008 11:19:00 PM)

    This poem had me reminiscing about my 10th. It was 1975 and 'Jaws' had just come out. I had the coolest birthday ever - a pool party and everyone got rubber sharks as a party favor. I was afraid to get in the pool. I felt so ashamed to be 10 years old and afraid. 43 isn't much different. (Report) Reply

  • (6/18/2007 1:46:00 PM)

    This is a great poem to read to children, they get a huge kick out of this idea....looking back on your life when you are that young.... (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: soldier, believe, today, light, remember, beautiful, house, tree, dark, time, friend

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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