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

Analysis, meaning and summary of William Carlos Williams's poem This Is Just To Say


  1. Bob says:

    this is such a great poem. this was like a master pice. dskfduhdudjfjfrufju:2+

  2. PGLK says:

    It is difficult to analyze Though as Blake suggested, we may be able “to see a world in a grain of sand” I don’t think we can discuss the quality of Williams’ marriage on the evidence of a single poem. I realize it is difficult to analyze something as intimate as poetry, especially Williams’ poetry, without bringing along some of our own personal baggage. Yet I believe it is important to try and take his words at face value. To my understanding, William Carlos Williams wanted most of all for us to see how every-day life and language is laden with beauty and richness. Perhaps I missed the poem where he tells how sad he is in his loveless marriage. What do we know if their relationship? Have we considered how his life as a physician impacts his poetry?

    When I read this poem (out loud) I picture the Doctor called away before dawn, trying to get something to eat before heading off to the sickbed of some child. Does he wake his wife so she may prepare him breakfast? He does not. Does he snatch her breakfast and leave her nothing in return? Look again. He has left her the vivid image of his pleasure in the plums. He has asked for her forgiveness. He has left her a note, speaking of his actions… and his acceptance of the consequences.

    To me, it is a love not. I wonder left how many notes like this he has left for his wife over the course of their marriage. I sense he is confident that this small transgression will be overlooked. He has given the women he loves a precious gift that I have noticed many men seem afraid to share… his attention, his ability to admit his error and ask forgiveness, and his willingness to communicate.

  3. jim gallman says:

    I read the poem differently. To me it seemed terribly sad. It showed a marriage where all sentiment, love and regard has long since left. “I ate the plums. I assume you wanted them. They were good.” Their entire relationship stripped down to petty acts and comments devoid of human feeling for a one time loved one.

  4. Samantha says:

    i have laughed
    my heart out
    from my

    and which
    i couldnt stop
    they made me cry

    forgive me
    i could not
    contain my

  5. George says:

    I’ll tell you what this poem is about.

    It’s about living in the moment. The narrator ate the plum which he knew that the “audience” was saving for breakfast. Instead of thinking about things and the audience’s feelings, he decided to act in the moment and eat the plum. He didn’t think about the consequences but just the feeling he had when he ate the plum– “they were delicious/so sweet/and so cold.”

    The narrator accepts what he does not let it get it in his way by asking for forgiveness instead of hiding what he has done.

    This poem is a call to people to live life in the moment and don’t let good opportunities pass.

  6. Marcelia says:

    I think this poem is about taking someone’s innocence. And that person was saving it for marriage. And the speaker, is not really sorry.

  7. Annie says:

    I think that we may juxtapose the guilt about eating the plums with the guilt about eating the apple of knowledge by Adam. In this sense, the person for whom the speaker had left the note may be seen as a “friend who understands”; God here would be seen as somebody distant and severe

  8. rienne says:

    Some of you guys are spending too much time reading into a “poem” by WCW that is just explaining a bit of fruit.
    “This is just to say” clearly says that there is no hidden meaning…it’s just a note to inform the intended that their breakfast was gone…

  9. Kory X. says:

    You’ve all got it all wrong. This guy is talking about having an affair with somebody else’s neglected wife. I’ve got an entire interpretation of it written down but it’s not really… ‘appropriate.’

  10. John says:

    I did this for English class and it is a representative of life!

    Haven’t you ever done something that you weren’t supposed and that the person wouldn’t appreciate? But you would do it again if you had to because of the rewards?

    This is that type of situation. The poet says “forgive me”, but does he really mean it?

  11. Kati Johnson says:

    this is an imagist poem which means he was just trying to make you see a picture there is no deeper meaning!

  12. tu mam says:

    i love this poem man

  13. Darkdestea says:

    I think this poem has to do with having sex that was supposed to be saved before marriage but was pleasing at that time.

  14. YU says:

    feel what the writer feels,I guess perhaps he just want to say”sorry”

  15. Andy Blake says:


  16. Katie! says:

    This poem relates to me the importance of sharing; whether it be love between one another, or even fruit for a meal in the morning for the two or many. The author may be sorry he ate the fruit both of them would share, which brings up even more analytical points about lost love, lust, and abandonment but I don’t wish to go into that.
    This is a man who wants to be Forgiven though he is not sorry, but he I think he would not be hurt if his wife was angry with him.

  17. Glynis says:

    I think it interesting how a few of the more recent posters attribute some malevolence to the narrator of this poem. I have loved this poem for a long time and that never ocurred to me. From the tone and the beautiful sensuality of it I have always had the impression that the note-writer and it’s intended reader love each other very much, and that the writer knows the reader will forgive him. He just couldn’t help himself from eating the luscious fruit. She/he will understand, even though she probably wanted the fruit for herself, and be happy that he enjoyed it so. He owns up to what he did, though perhaps he coild have gotten away without that, and by so doing he shares some of his experience with her and so gives it back to her in a way.

    I can’t say that one interpretation is better than another, though I’ll admit I like mine more!

  18. Christina says:

    Read “Variations on a theme by William Carlos Williams” by Kenneth Koch…a wonderful parody! Just as simple/lovely as the original in its own twisted fashion.

  19. Emma says:

    this poem is just awsome, just a few words, a commonpace situation , a note on the fridge…and this feeling of trangression, this is just lustful! he apologies but doesn’t regret at the same time.simple words but the right ones, I pictured myself,facing this huge white frige with note stuck on it…

  20. Nathan Dornbrook says:

    There is a wealth of information we can infer directly from the words of the poem, without having to resort to WCW’s Imagist inclinations or his latent Socialism.

    We know, for instance, that the author of the note expects it to be read and soon – he has some sort of relationship to the reader that allows them to share access to the icebox. We know that the author has enough information about the reader that he knows what she was thinking about having for breakfast.

    There are some questions that the poem begs – Why would a genuinely contrite plum-thief describe how much joy his larcenous perfidy brought him? If he’s not genuinely contrite – and I submit that he is not sorry at all – then why leave a note? Why start it so cavalierly? If he and the intended recipient were so close as to share an icebox and therefore likely a home, would the pilfered plums really be a noteworthy issue?

    I suggest that this is the last note from one lover to another. Either the man is leaving her for another woman or she’s discovered a faithless indiscretion and chucked him out and he’s decided to go like a barbed hook.

    A note such as this could be devestating – subtle and incisive.

    It says: “I want you to know it was me. I did this. And I did it to you. I knew when I did it that you didn’t want it to happen. And I loved it.”

    The ambiguity of the plum reference is, in my opinion, intentional. By forcing the reader to consider and reconsider the crime of the stolen fruit, it forces her to ask who is both sweet and cold? “Is it me?” she might ask. “Am I sweet but cold? Is the other woman sweet but cold? Was he sweet but cold?” These thoughts would be a puzzle providing continuous temptation to draw the reader into thinking about the event again and again, like a stone skipping over a lake of cold realisation that he is GONE.

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