Litany

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 that 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.

by Billy Collins

Comments (6)

One more shaky text! Thanks for sharing.
There is an intimacy here, evoked by the format of a quiet conversation, belying the irony that the other participant has been dead for 20 years. It hauntingly encapsulates the power of a friendship that still grips, still hurts, still remains as fresh as a conversation, twenty years later. Remarkably executed.
I admire the author of this poem...... His work is remarkable...
Magnificent poem. Startling in its clarity while misty and memorial in its backward glance. Lew Welch was a poet of remarkable talent (read his work - start here: https: //www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-saw-myself/) . One day he walked away into the scrub and forest of the hills where he and Snyder remotely, rustically, homesteaded on adjoining parcels of land. Snyder was actively involved in finding him. But no one ever saw Lew Welch again. Snyder poem has all the nostalgia and loss, all the acknowledgement of life and accomplishment wrapped in the skin of a quiet domestic evening. The way it is all bundled together in such a small, personal poem is both heartbreaking and wonderful and somehow deeply affirming of life. No value judgements, just observation. Selection of the exact images to convey both exact and vague feelings. It's like an explosion of emotion under the gentle surface. A tea ceremony that encapsulates history and culture and the specific individuals within.
This one reached out and grabbed me around the neck and shook me until I felt his sorrow and his backward glances in my heart
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