This Is Just to Say

A while back “This American Life” on NPR stations aired an episode called “Mistakes Were Made.”  The show was all about people who apologize without really apologizing.  A short segment at the end of the broadcast featured William Carlos Williams’ poem “This is Just to Say,” which reads:

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.

– William Carlos Williams


I am sorry to admit that I don’t remember ever having heard or read this infamous poem before Sunday, but now that I have, I can’t get it out of my mind.  One of the interesting things about the “Life” segment was that they asked several of their regular contributes to write and share their own “parodies” of the poem in question.  Some of them were funny; others quite poignant.  Since Sunday, several bloggers have written their own versions of the poem, and here are a a few of them:

This is just to say
I ran over your cat

forgive me
he just looked so retarded

although he was born that way
his eyes were crossed
his tail was bent

would have wanted it this way

If it makes you
feel better
it took me three tries
to catch him
Found here.

Here is another:

This is just to say
I have killed
the dreams
that were in
your heart

and which
you were probably saving
for when you grew up

Forgive me
they were impossible
so hopeful
and so like my own
Found here.

And here is a “parenting a teenager” version of the poem, I found here.

I have dried
the shirt
made of 100% cotton

that was on your floor
and which
you were probably
to air dry

Forgive me
if you had sorted
your own laundry
it would not be
so short
and so small


Of course I have decided to try my own hand at writing one myself.  Here it is:

This Is Just to Say

That when your
Guinea Pig Ginger died
I bought a replacement
that looked just
like her but was smaller.

I know I told you
that she had been
on a diet
and had lost
a lot of weight,
but I lied.

Forgive me
you were so young
and had been so sad
and I couldn’t bear to tell you
the truth.

– Dad


So, gentle readers, here is a challenge for you.  Write your own version of this poem and post it in the comments or provide a link to your own blog where I and others can find it.  If you need help, you can use this web wizard for help.  I also believe my friend Julie is working on a post featuring this poem as well.  When and if she posts it, I will provide you all with a link.

Also, if you’d like to hear the “This American Life” episode for yourself, you can go here to listen to it:  A description of the episode from the site follows:

“Mistakes Were Made – Act Two. You’re Willing to Sacrifice Our Love.

There’s a famous William Carlos Williams poem called “This is Just to Say”. It’s about, among other things, causing a loved one inconvenience and offering a non-apologizing apology. It’s only three lines long, you’ve probably read it…the one about eating the plums in the icebox. Marketplace reporter (and published poet) Sean Cole explains that this is possibly the most spoofed poem around. We asked some of our regular contributors to get into the act. Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff, Starlee Kine, Jonathan Goldstein, Shalom Auslander and Heather O’Neill, all came up with their own variations of Williams’s classic lines. (6 minutes)”

5 thoughts on “This Is Just to Say

  1. i invaded iraq
    and made up a
    reason to do so

    ive told you that
    our mission
    was accomplished
    and you are safe

    lives were lost and
    money spent
    also pretty much the
    whole world hates you now

    Forgive me
    that bastard tried
    to kill my dad

  2. This is just to say

    That I studied
    William Carlos Williams
    When I was 25,
    Seven years late to college,
    So glad to be there finally.

    This poem meant
    everything to me
    Because it showed me
    that even sorrow
    & apologies
    Can be grounded in joy
    And thereby
    made less weighty.

    I didn’t care, I was late. Period.
    No apologies required.

  3. He wrote a wonderful poem that I took to be about perception & what we declare to be important. It is commonly called the “Red Wheelbarrow”

    from Spring and All (1923)

    so much depends

    a red wheel

    glazed with rain

    beside the white

  4. This is just to say
    I have hidden
    the Hershey’s chocolate
    that was in
    the Halloween bag

    and which
    you were probably saving
    for yourself.

    Forgive me
    it was delicious
    so frozen
    and so dipped in peanut butter

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