A Poem for a Thursday #12

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

The thing about choosing poems for my Thursday posts is that once I discover a poet I like I end up with many of their poems that I want to feature. I have a list of poems by Mary Oliver because once I discovered her I just kept reading. The same is true this week for Billy Collins. I had read several of his poems before, including the one I am using today, but now I have so many more I would love to share. Don't be too surprised if Mary Oliver and Billy Collins pop up again on a Thursday sometime very soon.

Billy Collins was the U.S. poet laureate from 2001-2003. He has received numerous awards and honors. He is famous for "conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself."

His poem "Litany" is inspired by the first two lines of a poem written by Belgian poet Jacques Crickillon. It is immensely appealing with words that flow.

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner 
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and-somehow-the wine.

Billy Collins


  1. I have only recently come across Billy Collins, an amusing and talented poet. I think this poem also shows his sly sense of humour, gently poking fun at poets using metaphors.

    1. He does seem to enjoy gently poking fun at things and I enjoy reading the result! I have several of his other poems lined up to use one of these days.

  2. I love Billy Collins. His poems are wonderful. I was lucky enough to see him read and give a brief talk once, though, and he was quite grumpy about being asked questions. We put it down to him having a bad day, but the friend I went with & I still joke about it.