“On Turning Ten” – 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.

[February 12]

This might not be the end of everything.
If it were, surely it would not smell like
lemon dish soap, not taste like violets
and salt. It’s easy to get trapped
in this little bubble, watching waves of time
approach, cascade around you, disappear
into the distance. Easy to pretend
that you alone are timeless. Outside, the trees
are absolutely still. The coldest days are
clear, sunny, unforgiving, harsh and bright,
so cold that frost forms around the corners
of your bedroom window, which you remember
being told would happen. This may be what grieving
feels like now. The thousand nerves in your gut
alive again with pain. The controlled panic
of your heart.