If you haven’t read this poem already, there’s a 80% chance you would have come across it in your life without me posting it here today. It’s a classic:
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
It’s by William Carlos Williams, who was both a doctor and a poet.
The reason I like this poem so much is that it is a perfect description of a moment, and it’s a description of a relationship. All of that in 12 lines! It’s got the joy of spontaneously eating something because it seems like the perfect thing to do, and the thrill of knowing it’s not very polite. You could read it a different way each time. Is the narrator really asking for forgiveness? Or is he confident that the plum-owner won’t care about the theft of his or her food?
Another fan (maybe?) of this poem was the poet Kenneth Koch:
The reason I say “maybe” is that Koch wrote 4 variations on the W.C.W. poem. They’re very funny – they could be criticizing the plum poem for being so lighthearted about stealing food, or they could just be taking the concept of an insincere apology to an absurd conclusion. You decide:
I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.
We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.
I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the
next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.
Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!
(To read more from either poet, click on their portraits above.)
-Tessa, CLP – East Liberty