Class Picture

April 1, 2008

Oh, today I mourn the last day of teaching poetry! Alas!

We’re heading into fiction after today. Last week I shared this Billy Collins poem with

the class. Billy Collins. Sigh. I still have a man-crush on him (does that make me gay?).

If you’ve read his poems you’ll know why.

Class Picture, 1954

Billy Collins

I am the third one

from the left in the third row.


The girl I have been in love with

since the 5th grade is just behind me

to the right, the one with the bangs.


The boy who pushed me down

in the playground

is the last one on the left in the top row.


And my friend Paul is the second one

in the second row, the one

with his collar sticking out, next to the teacher.


But that’s not all—

if you look carefully you can see

our house in the background


with its porch and its brick chimney

and up in the clouds

you can see the faces of my parents,


and over there, off to the side,

Superman is balancing

a green car over his head with one hand.


** from The Trouble With Poetry– and other poems, Billy Collins, 2005

***By the way, can anyone decipher that last stanza for me? What do you think it means?

Here’s my class picture–from 1974.

Can you pick me out of the bunch?


(there’s a little arrow beneath me in case you can’t; click pic to see a larger version).

5 Responses to “Class Picture”

  1. Dan said:

    Superman’s debut Action Comics cover (1938) showed Superman holding a green car over his head.

  2. rob said:

    Hmmm, interesting.
    But this poem is called Class Picture, 1954…
    I wonder what is the significance of the two dates???
    Inquiring minds want to know!

  3. Angie said:

    Awww, what a cutie!

  4. Miguel Murphy said:

    1. 1974 is my favorite year. That’s when I was born. . . I thought we were the same age?

    2. I think that last stanza really sets up the “normality” of the speaker. Here he is, in his “normal” school, with his “normal” crush, his “normal” family in the distance of this mid-western “normal” memory . . . there is also the memory of a childhood fantasy, what is it we’d dream of being. Some childhood promise of a future that’s ridiculous and mindblowing too. If we think of the poet/speaker looking back on the photograph, we’re faced with the question of the real life. Who did he end up marrying, if anyone at all? What happened that his parents (who as children we believe are immortal) are now among the clouds? So that the fantasy of being young, impenetrable, full of possibility and power, is now replaced by the adult realization that our childhood is also a kind of fantasy. The distance between the child and the man, the boy who believes in Superman and the adult who has lost his parents, and school-girl crushes, and friends, is balanced in the poem on that end-dash: the rude interjection of adulthood on the fantastical life of ourselves as a child.

    anyway, that’s what I think

    love you!

  5. rob said:

    you’re awesome. thank you so much for your feedback on the poem. it makes sense. can you be there to help me understand all poems? 🙂

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