A Billy Collins Poem

I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey’s Version of

“Three Blind Mice”

And I start wondering how they came to be blind.

If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sisters,

and I think of the poor mother

brooding over her sightless young triplets.

Or was it a common accident, all three caught

in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps?

If not,

if each came to his or her blindness separately,

how did they ever manage to find one another?

Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse

to locate even one fellow mouse with vision

let alone two other blind ones?

And how, in their tiny darkness,

could they possibly have run after a farmer’s wife

or anyone else’s wife for that matter?

Not to mention why.

Just so she could cut off the tails

with a carving knife, is the cynic’s answer,

but the thought of them without eyes

and now without tails to trail through the moist grass

or slip around the corner of a baseboard

has the cynic who always lounges within me

up off his couch and at the window

trying to hide the rising softness that he feels.

By now I am now to dicing an onion

which might account for wet stinging,

in my own eyes, though Freddie Hubbard’s

mournful trumpet on “Blue Moon,”

which happens to be the next cut,

cannot be said to be making matters any better.

 On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel

like I’m coming down with something,

something worse than any stomach ache

or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–

a kind of measles of the spirit,

a mumps of the psyche,

a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,

but that is because you have forgotten

the perfect simplicity of being one

and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.

But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.

At four I was an Arabian wizard.

I could make myself invisible

by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.

At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window

watching the late afternoon light.

Back then it never fell so solemnly

against the side of my tree house,

and my bicycle never leaned against the garage

as it does today,

all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,

as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.

It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,

time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe

there was nothing under my skin but light.

If you cut me I could shine.

But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,

I skin my knees. I bleed.

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