Wednesday, May 4, 2016


The Country

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?
I posted this before, but I like it. Collins has written a number of poems I like. This came up last week in the barbershop when the new guy mentioned that one of our neighbors just sold a new book. A book of poems, if you can believe that. She wondered, "who buys poetry?" and it was a valid wonderment because, nobody buys poetry. Still, it's nice to see it is still practiced, in the dark, behind a tree, away from anybody who could see it in effect and criticize it to death.
I brought this to mind after reading the poem that featured the use of Home. I wanted something else to steer by as I go to bed. This will do in a pinch.


  1. I used to commute between San Diego and San Jose/Treasure Island. I would drive out late at night in order to avoid the horror that is LA and I would listen to the radio. It's the only time I listen to the radio. One night, as I was driving through the Grapevine I got this poem read aloud by its author. I bought two or three of his books.