Friday, February 1, 2013

Litany by Billy Collins

       I heard this today and it made me want to cry.  The poem, Litany, by Billy Collins, is remarkable enough but listening to it being wonderfully recited by the child was amazing. What is it about poetry that makes it so mysteriously moving?  What is it about this child's voice, inflection, and manner that makes the poem come alive?

     I wanted to write an homage poem and maybe I will someday but for now?  For now it is enough to listen to the words of Billy Collins being spoken by a child.

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.

Billy Collins


  1. I was completely undone by this. Utterly. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. PS--Did you see this?

    2. Thank you so much for that link! I wondered about this child and how he did this! Remarkable. I am still riding the wave of inspiration after listening to this poem yesterday.

  2. I love this. It is so unbelievably beautiful.

    1. I know! I just have to listen to it over and over again.

  3. I was hoping it would be that poem when I saw your post title! Love, love, love that one. Totally adorable to have a little one reciting it, too. :) Thanks for this.