For this, the final Wednesday of National Poetry Month, I’ve decided to go with one of my favorite poems from a contemporary poet. Billy Collins is clever and relevant and perfect to read aloud–partly because the meter lends itself to oration and partly because he’s wicked funny and may be your only chance to make your friends laugh. This poem is from the book Love Poetry Out Loud.
By Billy Collins
“You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine…”
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.
In Love Poetry Out Loud, Robert Alden Rubin writes, “Why can’t poets just say what they mean? Every harried student of literature has probably wondered why they insist on employing metaphors, similies, and other elaborate figures of speech when plain English would do just fine. Maybe it’s because playing with words and images is fun, for one thing. And, for another, sometimes plain English won’t, in fact, ‘do’ –sometimes the imagination must be summoned up by outrageous images.”