Billy Collins.
  • Billy Collins.
  • Smokey the Bear heads
  • Into the autumn woods
  • With a red can of gasoline
  • And a box of matches.
  • His hat is cocked
  • At a disturbing angle.
  • The moonlight catches the teeth
  • Of his smile.
  • His paws, the size of catcher’s mitts,
  • Crackle into the distance.
  • He is sick of dispensing
  • Warnings to the careless,
  • The half-wit camper
  • The dumbbell hiker.
  • He is going to show them
  • How a professional does it.
  • No one runs after him
  • With the famous lecture.

Billy Collins has been characterized by The New York Times as America’s favorite poet. His poems are accessible, clever, entertaining, skillfully made, and often highly amusing. He is also a brilliantly entertaining public reader of his poetry. He was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2001 and held the position until 2003. He was Poet Laureate for the state of New York from 2004 until 2006. “Flames” is from Collins’ collection The Apple that Astonished Paris, copyright © 2006 by Billy Collins and published by the University of Arkansas Press. It is reprinted with permission.

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