Child Development

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.

by Billy Collins

Comments (16)

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.
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!
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
who you callin' a fatuous Enlightment hack? S. Johnson.
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
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