Creatures by Billy Collins


Creatures by Billy Collins

Hamlet noticed them in the shapes of clouds,
but I saw them in the furniture of childhood,
creatures trapped under surfaces of wood,
one submerged in a polished sideboard,
one frowning from a chair-back,
another howling from my mother’s silent bureau,
locked in the grain of maple, frozen in oak.
This poem (click on the title to read the whole thing) captivates me but I can’t decide if it’s whimsical or disturbing. Perhaps it’s all of those things. The initial word choices (trapped, submerged, frowning, howling, locked) build a dark and ominous tone, but some of the lines are funny, in an exaggerated or overstated way, especially toward the end.

“taking the thing from you and flinging it out

over the sparkle of blue waves
so it could live out its freakish existence
on the dark bottom of the sea
and stop bothering innocent beachgoers like us,
stop ruining everyone’s summer.”

Whether it’s creepy or quirky, it has me looking for faces “trapped” around me. When I visited some interesting rock formations recently, I found myself thinking again of this poem and looking for those faces. I was mesmerized by the swirls and whirls and pits of these rocks. The more I looked, the more I felt like there must be faces there if only I looked in just the right way. Do you see any in this one?

Or in this one?
I confess, I didn’t ever see any in the top photo, but here’s what I saw in the second one:
DSCN7270 (1)
Did you see it? What do you think about Creatures–quirky or creepy?
For more poetry, go to Tara’s blog A Teaching Life for the Poetry Friday Roundup.
*Note–I apologize for the odd spacing. The only advice I could find on line about fixing it involved making code changes–That scared me much more than howling faces locked in rock and wood!

13 thoughts on “Creatures by Billy Collins

  1. kd0602 says:

    I see one in the top photo! Like a child looking up over the edge (near the bottom, looking toward the top). I thought I was the only one who saw faces in wallpaper and carpet designs! I hadn’t thought to look for them in rock formations. What fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Linda Baie says:

    I see a duck-like creature in the upper left of the top photo, Molly. In my former home we had some Italian tile installed in the front hall & kitchen area & I saw faces in it all the time. The poem seems fun to me, but some of the verbs are a little dark. I love that you found some other connections to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We abated mold and slapped mold-proof vinyl on our ancient bathroom. Now a cat peeks at me when I am at my most… occupied moments. I wouldn’t like to cast him to the depths, though. I find him good company. Silent and uncritical. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sue says:

    Molly, in the top photo there is a person laying down on her side.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think Billy Collins’s poems often have a light-hearted darkness to them, and that may be part of their appeal. I’m always looking for shapes in clouds, but not so much in rocks or tree bark. That being said, I do see the profile of a human in the top photo. To me, it looks like a woman wearing a veil, raising her hands in supplication. Thank you for this thought-provoking post, Molly!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jarhartz says:

    I see a duck and a buffalo in the top picture. Funny! And, I have to admit I saw faces in furniture as a kid. Never really thought much about it. I see the fun in it if you don’t look too long or think about it too much. Perhaps Billy Collins did.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. For me, I didn’t see anything in the bottom photo, but in the top I see the profile of a ornery old man, and the face of a baby elephant. We have a couple pseudo marble floors in my house where I find faces all the time! Thanks for sharing the Billy Collins, Molly– that one was new to me, and Billy Collins is always appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. maryleehahn says:

    I see faces and creatures in both of your photos! I remember how startled I was the day I noticed that there are two birds in the faux marble vanity in my bath that is decorated with…a BIRD THEME!

    I love this poem. I agree that there’s a combination of playful and ominous, but it goes full-on hyperbolic in those last lines when that rock must be thrown because it is ruining the whole summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my goodness! That is really neat. I love your thoughts about the mood of this poem. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have childhood memories bubbling up from reading this. The memories are kinda dark….and kinda funny. Seems right.

    Liked by 1 person

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