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  • Fall to Your Knees and Thank God for Your Eyesight
  • Billy Collins

was my mother’s usual response to my bouts of childhood whining.

I can’t find my other sneaker. Fall to your knees and thank God for your eyesight There’s no one to play with this early. Fall to your knees and thank God for your eyesight My bicycle only has three gears. Fall to your knees and thank God for your eyesight

It’s a line best delivered in a rural Irish accent, but my mother didn’t have one of those growing up on a farm in Ontario, Canada. Nor did she have much Canada in her voice. Fall to your knees and thank God for your eyesight, aye? was not heard in the hallways of our house.

Needless to say, I never fell for it, though it did create pauses in my trickle of complaints and maybe cleared some room in my room strewn with toys—small tanks and smaller soldiers—a little space to think about God and eyesight but not for long, of course, the demands of childhood

being what they are. And the repeated words sometimes made me think twice before whimpering about a bruise on my knee, or foolishly I would say the line just when she did, the two of us chanting Fall to your knees . . . which is as far as I got before she appeared

in the doorway and pinned me to the floor with that look. No surprise to know that nowadays I say it every chance I get: to everyone under this roof including the dog and under my breath to people on the street—this one grousing about the price of eggs or gasoline,

that one furious that the bus is late, especially when I realize those voices are mine—me peevish in the bedroom, me bitching about the rain, me and my broken shoelace, me in the sand trap, me forgetting to fall to my knees to thank her for giving me the eyes to see the world, to regard these words.



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