Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"This is Just to Say..."

Perhaps you are familiar with William Carlos Williams' poem "This is Just to Say." Apparently it's a classic, though I have only just heard of it myself. It was featured this past week on This American Life. You ARE familiar with This American Life, aren't you? If not, do yourself a favour and treat yourself to an occasional listen... I doubt you'll be able to keep it to merely 'occasional.'

This past week's episode was thematically about insincere apologies. Who hasn't made an insincere apology in their life? Particularly as a kid. I know I sure did. I must have done something somewhere along the way to my little sister that I was made to apologise for when I hadn't yet developed the capacity for genuine regret for my actions. These days I don't think I apologise if I don't mean it - I mean, what's the point?

"This is Just to Say" seems to have a spectrum of interpretation associated with it. Some people take the apology as sincere, others not so. I'm going to have to come down in the 'insincere' camp, but before I get into my argument, here's the poem itself:

THIS IS JUST TO SAY, by William Carlos Williams

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

Where exactly does he apologise? He doesn't! He makes a demand for forgiveness, but never actually apologises. "Probably saving for breakfast..."? Is it just me or does that stink of being something that he knew damned well (perhaps it was her habit to have plums for breakfast?) was the case and now he's trying to play dumb? "And so cold..." seems like a reflection of the quality of apology, doesn't it?
Anyhow, as an apology, I don't buy it.

On This American Life they had some of their regular contributors write their own 'This is just to say...' poems. I couldn't help myself. I had too much to not apologize for myself.

This is Just to Say

I forgive me
I know
You never will


I called you
a drunk
and told people
you are
that particular
type of selfish
who would write
a hollow note
"This is just to say..."




You don't get it
And I don't

Waah waah
Eat shit
You stupid fuck.


I fucked him
while we
were still engaged

I expected you
to believe
the contraceptive gel
was for us

Though I'd
been too distracted
by him
for months
to even think
of fucking

Forgive me
The anti-depressants
and booze
have compromised
my moral


Forgive me
for pretending
I'm sorry

It may not have
been 'cool'


You expect me
to defend that?


I could not
Think less
of you
if I tried

I've had it with
Your fragile psyche
like a Fabrege egg

Prepare for the worst
I could care less
if you
forgive me


I'm sorry
You lost your job
because of me

convincing you
to stay
in bed
long enough
to give one more
blow job

Well -
what can I say?

I think my favourites are the first one and the extreme brevity of the third one. I'm hoping other folks will add their own versions - this has been heaps of cathartic fun.

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