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(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

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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.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003
Edited: Sunday, March 27, 2011


Read poems about / on: mirror, fish, star, woman, house, rain, moon, wind, sun, world, women, fishing, tree

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Comments about this poem (I Go Back To The House For A Book by Billy Collins )

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  • Student A (4/30/2013 2:39:00 AM)

    Actually, the poem is a comparison how the characteristics and personalities of Collins and Crickillon, not really a love story. Maybe the two were friends in the past (and in the present) but I know this is not a love story. I see the poem this way, I don't know if you will too, but the poem starts by comparing Crickillon to many non-living objects, in other words, metaphorically. Then it does the same thing to Collins, eventually comparing them two by stating how Collins is not the bread and the knife and that Crickillon will always be the bread and the knife, not to mention the crystal goblet and - somehow- the wine.

    6 person liked.
    11 person did not like.
  • Peachy Keen (2/15/2011 8:59:00 PM)

    I really loved this poem when my creative writing teacher had us read it. I fell in love with Billy Collins' writing. But this one, yes is about his wife, and yes is a love poem, and yes is completely satirical about symbolization of love.
    I absolutely love them.

  • Gina Sanchez (5/22/2010 1:25:00 AM)

    Ah, Shannon, come on! A little love surely? ! I agree with you though. It is more comical to me than anything. He is totally making fun metaphors by writing a 'litany' of them. He has a good time with them as he pokes a little fun at (I presume) his wife. It is more about his observations of the relationship than love. He loves her, yes, but that isn't the point. The pine scented air line is hilarious example of the funny style. He portrays himself as such a romantic! Gotta love it.

  • Nobody Jones (1/7/2010 1:34:00 AM)

    i really really
    love
    this love poem
    about
    love

  • Shannon Swanson (9/14/2008 8:43:00 PM)

    This poem isn't about love at all - he's making fun of the overuse of objects as symbols. It's basically showing how symbolism isn't symbolic when over done, not how he loves someone.

  • Fifi Trixiebelle (4/3/2007 12:47:00 PM)

    This is one of my all time favorite love poems. Billy Collins is brilliant.

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