Monday, August 23, 2010


There's a part of me that wants to write poetic ramblings about my canoeing experience over the weekend, along with my new Little Brother, where we saw turtles in the clear water and fish and so, so many alligators on our trek down the river, but that's all I've got to say about that. Besides, look, photo. That's quite enough. I'm going to share some love for Billy Collins instead.

I still remember discovering a collection of his poetry while in my past life as a guybrarian so many years ago now. The first poem of his that I ever read was entitled "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House." And, just like that, I was hooked. He spoke plainly, was funny as he was observant and kept me interested, over and over. On my better days, I feel like I write a lot like him, honestly.

I checked out all the Billy Collins books we had on the shelves and later bought copies of everything I could find, even giving some collections away to others. I wanted to make others love his words as I did. Some have, some haven't. But the fact remains: the man is brilliant. He'll make you who fear poetry not to do so anymore, he really will.

Today's Billy Collins selection, then, comes with a purpose, but read it before I do that whole revealing part.

Litany, by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine . . .
Jacques Crickillon

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 am 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.

Read it out loud, allow it to sink in, swirl it around some. Then, and only then, watch this. So much exists on the Internet that, to share something on this small spot sometimes feels like it's been shared a-hundred thousand times before already. But, in the same way I once gave away books of poetry, I offer a magnifying glass for one single poem today. And, well, a three-year-old poetry lover. If you've seen it, you'll forgive me. If you haven't, perhaps you'll celebrate and enjoy Collins' language stanzas along with me. Out of the mouths of babes, eh?

Be amazed. And, you know, enjoy Collins' world some. If you liked this bit, chances are you'll like a lot of the things he has to say.


cropstar said...

wow. i love that so much.
that kid is ridiculous. also loved watching billy collins himself read it.

heather said...

thank you, so much, for giving me my first billy collins reading, and book.


heather said...

the look in his eyes just rends my heart. the way he says, "i also happen to be the shooting star" just gets me with some sort of deep, lost truth that he knows, maybe, and we've forgotten.