A Poem For Your Birthday


by Billy Collins 

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.

5 thoughts on “A Poem For Your Birthday

  1. My birthday’s coming up. Can I be the wet branch sitting dark against the sky or is that already taken?

  2. Hurray! I thought you would like a poem that was equal parts fondness and smack talking! But, since we now know this poem suits you, I’m going to petition Billy Collins to change the spelling of the last ‘wine’ to ‘whine.’

    Bridget, you for sure can be the wet branch sitting dark against the sky. I’ll admit I’ve often more envisioned you as the knowing wink of the crow, but I don’t see why you can’t be both.

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