Smokey the Bear heads
into the autumn woods
with a red can of gasoline
and a box of wooden matches.

His ranger’s hat is cocked
at a disturbing angle.

His brown fur gleams
under the high sun
as 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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Billy Collins's poem Flames


  1. ea says:

    LMAO. I have to say, every time I see this come up, I have to think that Billy Collins wrote this just for me and Brit. ;-D

  2. sure says:

    does this poem have a meaning or is it just ironic i don’t get it. Cause i have this english assignment.

  3. C-dog says:

    it rocks my socks of, yeah

  4. tai my shui says:

    sweet poem bill. thought it was quite ironic that smokey the bear wanted to start some fires.

  5. Ian says:

    Dont worry people. He never sets the forest on fire. The Trix Bunny stabs Smokey in the back before he ever gets the chance…..Rest assured.

  6. Buzz says:

    It wasn’t Smokey, it was his evil twin, Ignitus. Also read Billy’s “Osso Buco.”

  7. Thomas says:

    This poem is the funniest poem I’ve ever read! A new way to look @ Smokey the Bear. No longer the safe civilian he once was. HaHaHaHa!

  8. Jim K. says:

    Surely, the Boy Scouts of America will ban this one!

  9. Julie says:

    This poem is so cool cause it talks about flames and flames are so fasinating they are red and sometimes orange and its so exciting! red orange red orange red orange

  10. Rao says:

    I hope the hikers and campers read poems!

  11. Emily says:


  12. fiona h. says:

    this is a great example of personification

  13. joshua b. says:

    best poem i ever read

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