The Country - Billy Collins
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? Billy Collins