“This is Just To Say”

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
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
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.

Illustration by David Sankey

This entry was posted in Literature, National Poetry Month. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to “This is Just To Say”

  1. Molly says:

    You’re right, that ending is TOTALLY rubbing it in. Great idea to analyze a children’s poem for deeper meaning.


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