I would not consider myself a big poetry fan, generally speaking. I have my favorites, however, and Billy Collins is one of them.
I was introduced to Colins when my husband and I heard the poet read his poem entitled “The Country” on the car radio once and we laughed so hard, we had to pull over.
We live in the country, of course, and there are mice here. But mice and matches? Hmmm.
I wondered about you when you told me never to leave a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches lying around the house because the mice might get into them and start a fire. But your face was absolutely straight when you twisted the lid down on the round tin where the matches, you said, are always stowed. Who could sleep that night? Who could whisk away the thought of the one unlikely mouse padding along a cold water pipe behind the floral wallpaper gripping a single wooden match between the needles of his teeth? Who could not see him rounding a corner, the blue tip scratching against a rough-hewn beam, the sudden flare, and the creature for one bright, shining moment suddenly thrust ahead of his time— now a fire-starter, now a torchbearer in a forgotten ritual, little brown druid illuminating some ancient night. Who could fail to notice, lit up in the blazing insulation, the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces of his fellow mice, onetime inhabitants of what once was your house in the country?