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The Country by Billy Collins

By Alexander Carpenter
Billy Collins, former
US Poet Laureate and one of America’s best-selling poets, reads his
poem “The Country” with animation by Brady Baltezor of Radium.
I wondered about youwhen you told me never to leavea box of wooden, strike-anywhere matcheslying around the house because the mice
might get into them and start a fire.But your face was absolutely straightwhen you twisted the lid down on the round tinwhere the matches, you said, are always stowed.
Who could sleep that night?Who could whisk away the thoughtof the one unlikely mousepadding along a cold water pipe
behind the floral wallpapergripping a single wooden matchbetween 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 creaturefor one bright, shining momentsuddenly thrust ahead of his time –
now a fire-starter, now a torchbearerin a forgotten ritual, little brown druidilluminating 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 inhabitantsof what once was your house in the country?

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