Creatures. Hamlet saw them in the shapes of clouds. I’ve seen them in faded ceilings, peeling paint, and water stains. In the natural grain of hardwood floors. A face in the center of a flower. Or an abstract painting with only lines and circles. In swirls of marble and Italian tile. In the purple blotches inside a seashell. The pool of gravy on potatoes. Tree bark and tea leaves. The shape of birthmarks. On stone paths and in the way the asphalt cracks or the dominoes fall.
Right now, as I sit on the deck beneath the trees a huge rodent slowly inches across the sky. He’s white and fluffy (no rain in sight today) and resembles an agouti, though the real agouti’s nose is not quite as sharp as the cloud nose. Caught in a breeze it keeps getting longer and longer, like Pinocchio.
When I was in college studying psychology the Rorschach Test was a popular tool used by psychologists to analyze personality — emotions, mental conflict, motivation, etc. I thought then that the blots, though having almost perfect symmetry, looked pretty much like spilled ink. They still do. I must admit, however, if I try hard enough I can “see” a creature of some sort in most of them. One in particular has two pretty pink four-legged animals riding atop two huge butterflies. I like to imagine a tiny four-legged creature that resembles a cat-dog or dog-cat riding a mammoth blue (or pink and orange) butterfly through some fantastical forest.
Billy Collins, one of my favorite poets, writes about the “creatures” he sees in “the furniture of childhood, creatures trapped under surfaces of wood…
I would see these presences, too,
in a swirling pattern of wallpaper
or in the various greens of a porcelain lamp,
each looking so melancholy, so damned,
some peering out at me as if they knew
all the secrets of a secretive boy.”
I love the way Collins so easily transforms ordinary moments into treasures. While Neruda presents a challenge and pretty passages to commit to memory are offered by many poets, what I like most about Billy Collins is that reading his work often brings back memories from my own life. Images I had forgotten. Treasures.
***The above passage is from “Creatures” by Billy Collins from the collection titled Nine Horses: Poems.
***Click on “poetry” under “categories” in the sidebar for other posts about poetry.