I grew up hiding from the other children
I would break off from the pack
on its patrol of the streets every Saturday
and end up alone behind a hedge
or down a dim hallway in a strange basement.
No one ever came looking for me,
which only added to the excitement.
I used to hide from adults, too,
mostly behind my mother’s long coat
or her floral dress depending on the season.
I tried to learn how to walk
between my father’s steps while he walked
like the trick poodle I had seen on television.
And I hid behind books,
usually one of the volumes of the encyclopedia
that was kept behind glass in a bookcase,
the letters of the alphabet in gold.
Before I knew how to read,
I sat in an armchair in the living room
and turned the pages, without a clue
about the worlds that were pressed
between D and F, M and O, W and Z.
Maybe this explains why
I looked out the bedroom window
first thing this morning
at the heavy trees, low gray clouds,
and said the world gastropod out loud,
and having no idea what it meant
went downstairs and looked it up
then hid in the woods from my wife and our dog.
–Billy Collins, Ballistics: Poems