I first encountered this poem in an issue of Highlights For Children, probably when I was like 7:
This Is Just to Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Imagine my surprise when, circa 15 years later, I encountered it again when studying the works of William Carlos Williams.
I liked the idea that poetry should appeal to children as much as any intellectual. But I think this is ultimately a sneaky poem.
The message appears simple: “Sorry, I ate your plums”. But is the speaker sorry? The title sounds like one of my favorite defensive phrases: “I’m just sayin’…” [as in: Accusation: “How could you leave the tap on all night?!” Response: “Look, I’m just sayin’…” **feels absolved from offering a proper explanation**], translating into “I’m just saying, I ate your fruit”. Or, “I ate your fruit, so…yeah.”
And the author actually is rubbing it in it near the end, emphasizing how “delicious” and “sweet” the stolen fruit was. I can almost see the speaker’s smirk. Coupled with the poem’s short lines and pauses, which make the speaker sound hesitant when the lines are recited aloud, it makes for a playful piece.