Mar 11, 2009

Billy Collins on "OMG"

I've only recently come to know Billy Collins and his poetry. Then last weekend at the IAM Encounter, there he was. Reading his poetry. He's like a cross between Coleridge and Steven Wright. He's my new hero.

Here are a few favorites.


Not only in church
and nightly by their bedsides
do young girls pray these days

Wherever they go,
prayer is woven into their talk
like a bright thread of awe

Even at the pedestrian mall
outbursts of praise
spring unbidden from their glossy lips.


“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.


I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you--not one bit.

When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.

I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair to eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.

I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and--greatest of insults--shake hands without a hand.

I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.

You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.

The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.

While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all of my strength
not to raise my head and howl.

Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner--
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.


Cornelia Seigneur - Finding the Adventure in Motherhood and Life said...

I also just discovered Billy Collins - ! his way to make the ordinary extraordinary is fabulous- cornelia seigneur

Hasibul Haque said...

I heard Billy Collins read Oh, My God on NPR today while I was driving to work and thought this was such a nice poem.

Anonymous said...

Billy Collins read OMG on Prairie Home Companion yesterday, normally repeats on Sunday.

His poem The Lanyard is also quite nice.

Susan Isaacs said...

REALLY? I have to listen to it then. I love Prairie Home Companion but we only listen if we're driving over the weekend. Thank you, I'm going to make sure we have it on! I love the Lanyard, too. So funny and touching.

Anonymous said...

i thought some of these "books" were poems..not full..actual books...

Susan Isaacs said...

Yes, these are just some of his poems

Unknown said...

Heard him speak last night at my school; he's hilarious pretty much the entire time. during the Q&A session he had some really insightful and witty answers to good questions. probably my favorite poet

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