A Poem For Your Thoughts

Billy Collins: Cheerios

Davis Creach, Arts Editor

Welcome back to A Poem For Your Thoughts, and I hope you all had a wonderful break! This week, we explore the work of Billy Collins, one of the funniest and light-hearted poets of all time. For those who’ve been here before, skip the intro and dive headfirst into the wisdom! Newcomers, here’s the breakdown: Each edition will include two poems, the first being a featured piece written by a famous poet that will be analyzed and interpreted according to my point of view. Of course, everyone’s interpretation is different and valid, and the comment section will be open for any further discussion. The second piece is written by yours truly and will be open to complete interpretation and analysis. Go forth, enjoy, and as you read, remember: “It is not what you look at that matters, it is what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau


Poem One: Cheerios by Billy Collins

One bright morning in a restaurant in Chicago
as I waited for my eggs and toast,
I opened the Tribune only to discover
that I was the same age as Cheerios.

Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
for today, the newspaper announced,
was the seventieth birthday of Cheerios
whereas mine had occurred earlier in the year.

Already I could hear them whispering
behind my stooped and threadbare back,
Why that dude’s older than Cheerios
the way they used to say

Why that’s as old as the hills,
only the hills are much older than Cheerios
or any American breakfast cereal,
and more noble and enduring are the hills,

I surmised as a bar of sunlight illuminated my orange juice.


Thoughts: Billy Collins, master of playful and sometimes absolutely hilarious poetry, expertly spits the truth of the universe with a playful twist in this poem where the speaker sheds light on the insecurity of his age. It is clear that the speaker is worried how the world and its people see him as he ages, as he focuses on the trivial concept that he was born before Cheerios were released on the market. Collins does an exemplary job at contrasting the speaker’s age with his youthful audience in the restaurant. For example, the speaker is reading the Tribune newspaper (which, let’s be honest, no one in our generation picks up a physical copy of a newspaper with intent to read it) and the people overlooking the speaker are clearly young based on their phrase “that dude’s older than Cheerios.” But ok, so what’s the point? I believe Collins is trying to focus our attention on a central aspect of aging: the beauty and nobility of getting older. It’s hard to miss the progression of society around the speaker who is rooted in his old ways, but while most of the poem highlights the speaker’s insecurities about growing old and having the world pass him by, the kids speaking a whole different language, and being ridiculed just because he is stooped over and older than Cheerios, there is a critical shift in the final stanza; the speaker realizes the regality and nobility that comes with aging as he compares it to the age of the hills. There is a powerful and wise quality to the mountains and hills of our world, as they’ve been here for thousands of years and have experienced all of time; so too is the elderly. They deserve respect and reverence because much like the hills they have conquered trials and tribulation, witnessed the ways of the universe, and formed the future in which the youth currently live. There is a more prideful tone, and the speaker begins to understand his insecurities regarding Cheerios and this fashion sense are nothing in comparison to his wisdom and experience. A fun and hopeful piece.


Poem Two: Yellow Line by D.C.


“Behind the yellow line!” the old hag would say,

And, terrified, behind that line I would stay.

A 10-year-old boy, curious at the sight,

Of the bright yellow buses, stopped at my right.


I wanted to step, across that neon border,

Just to see how the asphalt would feel.

Of course I knew I would upset the order

Of my government, the old hand of steel.


But what was beyond that brightly painted curb?

A whole new, unchartered world I could not wait to disturb.

A land of adventure, marvel, and extreme wild creatures,

Complete with large horns and strange, exotic features.


But the old hag said, harshly, “Get back, and stay back.”

And I watched as my dream world began to crack.

The creatures fled the musk, smokey scene,

And I stood there, saddened, yet determined, by the evil creeping smokescreen.




I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of A Poem For Your Thoughts; we’ll see you back here next Friday, and every Friday, for more exciting poetry!