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 (12)

HERE IS A LINK TO MY COMMENT ON LITANY BY BILLY COLLINS: https: //docs.google.com/document/d/1mVEyRK9MyXoJC5s-F9UgUWPiADG_METlRwsn1g5mA2g/edit? usp=sharing
HERE IS MY RESPONSE TO KRISTEN REGARDING BILLY COLLINS: IT IS TOO LONG TO FIT IN THIS COMMENT BOX, SO HERE IS A LINK TO FIND IT. https: //docs.google.com/document/d/1dxI8AerVNefRZ6McUUE_O9DEfhg6r_DNh89hpMoI2d0/edit
I love this poem because Billy takes the traditional poetry to task. He illustrates just how ridiculous most poetry is by showing us how ridiculous it can be. I love it.
billy collins is to poetry what Thomas Kinkade was to painting- nothing but fluff and sugar. All is simple and bright and happy! Yay! ! ! This poem is as silly as the thought that generated it. The worst line is the needless repetition of the There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air. There's always that hyper hip tendency from Collins, the need to write down to the audience so as to fit into a modish little thimble space! I have advice for Collins: GET LARGE! ! ! ! ! SAY SOMETHING TO SHAKE US TO OUR ROOTS! ! ! ! ! HURT US! ! ! ! ! LACERATE US! ! ! ! ! LANCE THE BOIL OF OUR LETHARGIC LACK OF SENSIBILITY, BUT DO SOMETHING LARGE! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Stop dicing about in the garden with your little trowel and seeds and yellow sunhat. It's sickening.
Feels arbitrary and playful, and random while still intentional. I think it's not what he meant, but what you experience of it. I think he himself would wish for us to experience it in as many ways as we can, open to all of those ridiculous or insightful and definitely varied ways that it can be felt...and even experience it again through each other's interpretations. And that is when it becomes a poem. Before that, when it is just what he meant and only what he meant, then it may be a poem, but it isn't really poetry. It's fun to read it as a love poem, or as a love poem slightly sarcastic to his wife, or as making fun of the tendency to be overly symbolic to the point of incoherency, or taken literally as an attempt to be symbolic in love. It reads all those ways. I tend to feel that, if meaningful, the language is such a bombardment of symbols it could be saying anything-much like being both bread and knife...
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