Monday, August 23, 2010

You are the bread and the knife


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

I think this poem would make a great reading for a wedding ceremony. It has such a terrific, dry sense of humor and then BAM! The last bit just slays me.

If you happen to have a three-year-old on hand to recite it, so much the better.

(Image by Christina Richards Weddings; Words via even*cleveland)


  1. Thank you so much, ESB, for killing my mascara when I still have 4 hours to go at this godforsaken desk.

  2. Um, that was awesome. I want to just eat him up, he is so adorable.

    Am I the only one tickled by hearing a 3-year-old say words like goblet, orchard, scented, cornflowers, and dusk? Oh, and "plentiful imagery"? That one slayed me.

  3. OMG that baby. Do they rent him? I want one.

    And yes, very cool poem. Loving this idea.

  4. My Dad is a big Billy Collins fan and actually emailed me this poem. Unfortunately he sent it about 6 hours before my wedding, when I din't have a lot of free time to be checking email. If only he had sent it a day or two earlier it would have been in my ceremony. Sigh.

  5. Love that video above followed by this one of Billy reading:

  6. I love that kid. "There is just no way you are the pine scented air!" Love love love.

  7. i think to see a little kid read it would ruin it for me ... little children and i have a complicated relationship. this is such a lovely piece. mm.

  8. i love it!!! thank you for sharing this!

  9. That was amazing. 2 totally different things when I read it to myself and then hearing that little munchkin read it.

  10. that made my ovaries ache. could he get any cuter??

  11. there are no words to express just how much i love this.

    p.s. that 3 year old makes me feel like a total slacker... i need more poetry and less t.v.

  12. Love billy collins. i would love to be at the wedding that has this as a reading and the 3 year old reading, although i think it would have to be a 3 year old poetry savant.

  13. Oh my goodness, totally missed the link to the video of the three year old. Amazing. I love smart kids.

  14. Wow, that kid.

    But also, thank you ESB. Definitely be finding use for this one.

  15. Yep, we had this at our wedding! As well as "Sharing a Coke With You", "O Tell Me The Truth About Love" and a reading from the Mass. supreme court ruling in favor of same sex marriage. We didn't have any three year olds read them, though, so we probably missed out.

  16. Yeah, its awesome. Kind of reminds me of the poem equivalent of Bjork's It's Oh so Quiet.

  17. I had a pretty awesome dream about Billy Collins once. I was swimming in a lake and he was trapped inside of a mail box. I slipped him some vodka through the letter slot and he recited poetry to me. Swoon.

  18. That poem is just *astonishing*. It's more "me" perhaps than "us", but prompted me to go hunting down other Billy Collins poems - so many other wonderful ones, too. We got married last weekend, and my favourite reading *ever* was Patagonia. Just love it!

  19. Yay! I read it in my ceremony on August 16th. :) Super cute to see it on your blog. People said the nicest things about it.

  20. Definitely a must-have a the wedding. If you've got a 3 year old for hire down in Texas, lemme know. My fiance just wants to pick someone randomly from the ceremony to read it. That'll work.

  21. Oh wow, This is the reading we are having at our wedding!

    I found it ages ago and have it saved on my desktop but I did not know who wrote it thanks!