(This is the first in a month-long series for National Poetry Month! Every Thursday at 4pm through the month of April, I’ll share a poem or two that I love with thoughts and hope that you’ll explore their work. This is my first crack at doing anything with any sort of regularity around here, so suggestions and feedback are welcome!)

I’d never heard of Billy Collins until last year when Donald Miller wrote a happy-fan blog post about his new book Ballistics. And of course, if a writer you admire gushes about someone else’s work, it’s time to sit up and take notice. A few months later, I checked out Sailing Alone Around the Room at the library and dove into this poet’s work… and what delightful work it is! No pretentiousness here… his poetry is very accessible and brilliant in its simplicity. He’s also got a wicked great sense of humor in his writing that I love.

Recently, I discovered his poem “Litany” on Susan Isaacs’ blog, and it became an instant new favorite. It’s my kind of love poem, just because… well, just read it. :) (Or better yet, watch a video of him reading it)


“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.