So Sweet and So Cold

31 Oct

Don’t tell me This is Just to Say was a note that William Carlos Williams jotted off and left on the kitchen table for his wife:

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

Did she–Mrs. Williams (or Mrs. Carlos Williams)–read it and laugh?  As she headed back out to the grocery, did she scribble her answer in the margin?

I have spoofed
the poem
that you wrote
about plums

and which
you were probably
for serious readers

Forgive me
it was beautiful
so sweet
and so cold

46 Responses to “So Sweet and So Cold”

  1. Philippe October 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Welcome back.
    I thought
    you’d left for
    pastures new.

    Did Zumba
    take up
    all your
    writing time?

    As for plums
    in an icebox,
    They would
    freeze hard.

    Carlos Williams
    must have had
    teeth of steel
    to eat them.

    • jenny November 1, 2011 at 5:43 am #

      Hi Philippe! I got sidetracked for a while listening to THE MOTH and dreaming of how to get myself on the show. It sounds like fun.

      How could I leave for pastures new when I still don’t know the outcome of the family saga over on your blog?

  2. Paul Costopoulos October 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Eating those plums
    He must have felt a bum.
    Ms William was so bold
    As to hold
    Her own
    Against the known.
    As we say in French: “Excusez la”.

    • jenny November 1, 2011 at 5:44 am #

      Nice to hear from you, Paul. A little poem that concludes with a phrase in French is pure class! Thanks. 🙂

  3. Jim M. October 31, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    Poetic in its own way is Ben Franklin’s postscript to Catherine Ray:

    “P.S. The Plums came safe, and were so sweet from the Cause you mentioned, that I could scarce taste the Sugar.”

    • jenny November 1, 2011 at 5:53 am #


      That’s a very funny Ben Franklin letter! It reminded me of my favorite Alexander Pope poem, his Epistle to Miss Blount. OK, I’ll read more of Franklin’s letters. A fine thing in the morning before I go among the Grave ones…

      • Jim M. November 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

        Very funny too, the catty doggerel from you, The Non-Grave One.

      • jenny November 5, 2011 at 8:19 am #


        “Catty Doggerel” — the name of my next blog. 🙂

  4. Lynda Bennett de Valladares October 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    My darling Roman
    had washed two for me
    and though tempted to
    fondle and squeeze

    a bit longer
    I suddenly sucked them
    down, skins and all
    pits grating my tongue

    Even though they say
    small words
    have more punch
    my husband’s plums

    frescas, juzgosas
    gozosas y sabrozas
    made me smile a blush
    (I wipe my chin).

    • jenny November 1, 2011 at 5:57 am #

      Hi Lynda of the snazzy last name! You’re writing some wild stuff for a girl from Meadville. 🙂 So nice to hear from you, dear. Thanks.

  5. Richard November 1, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    Samples for the vet –
    The cat’s been bleeding.

    • jenny November 1, 2011 at 6:08 am #

      Richard, I’m so afraid now. What have you done to my simple domestic scene?

      Hi. 🙂

  6. Mr. Crotchety November 2, 2011 at 7:16 am #


    • jenny November 3, 2011 at 6:40 am #

      I know it’s goofy, this playing with form, Mr C, but I like it. It’s a kind of conversation with the author.

      Here’s one. Robert Pinsky has this ABC poem:

      Any body can die, evidently. Few
      Go happily, irradiating joy,

      Knowledge, love. Many
      Need oblivion, painkillers,
      Quickest respite.

      Sweet time unafflicted,
      Various world:

      X=your zenith.

      Fun, right? I wish he hadn’t used the word “irradiating” and I’m not sure I like the end, but when I try to answer Mr. Pinsky, in his form, I become less critical real fast. It’s friggin hard.

      I don’t think I can do it without a xylophone.

      • mr. crotchety November 3, 2011 at 7:56 am #

        I never said goofy. Goofy would be my rendition of Big Bird’s alphabet song. Or my Italian alphabet song. I’m just glad you posted something.

        I would have to take the day off to write an ABC poem. Maybe a sonnet. Can I xeriscape your zoo?

      • jenny November 5, 2011 at 8:13 am #

        Mr C,

        Xeriscaping your zoo is just the thing!

        Look, who can read an ABC poem without wondering from the start how the xyz problem will be resolved? It’s really all the reader can think about. So, the thing to do is write with a winking recognition of the absurdity of the problem. I like it. There’s life in it. 🙂

    • jenny November 3, 2011 at 6:48 am #

      One more thing: Kevin Young’s “Ode to the Midwest” — you posted it here way back when in a comment. I quote from it all the time. Thanks.

  7. Philippe November 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Go happily….”

    How many die
    wishing they’d spent
    more time
    at the office?

    • jenny November 5, 2011 at 8:14 am #

      I am one, Philippe, going rather unhappily to the office this very Saturday morning. Enjoy your day!

  8. Cyberquill November 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    I don’t know what to write. I was gonna post something and hit Enter after every second or third word, but I see this has been done to death by previous commenters.

    Therefore, I shall sit this subject out.

    • jenny November 5, 2011 at 8:28 am #

      Hi Cyberquill,

      Don’t you mean to say that you would sit this subject out, if there were a subject? 🙂

      • Cyberquill November 5, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

        Clearly, the topic here is whether PLBs (Premature Line Breaks) turn any sentence into a poem.

        Stand clear of the closing doors.

        Stand clear
        of the closing

        Poetry? Tough call.

      • Richard November 5, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

        Allow me just to offer one brief word,
        OBedience to the form is all but lost.
        It Cannot be enough, it won’t be heard
        To iDolise a way in part riposte.
        If ever this can safely be denied,
        All diFficulty yet must be o’ercome.
        Like anGels, praise the muse from deep inside
        The very Heart, but make no racks like some.
        This precIous language yearns a loyal soul
        Else empty Joking dissipates life’s force.
        There are no Kinder ways I can enrol
        Or cut the sweLling river from its course.
        For playful gaMes are but a masquerade.
        Come, join me shuN them, or the stars will fade.

        Pay heed, make prOper virtue of your pen,
        Untie those roPes of blessings and of scope,
        Sing lighter, Quell you not the joy of men.
        Shed light, a Ray, on present, blessed hope.
        ‘Tis easier, Sadly, to renounce the toll.
        Fear less, Take well the bolder, rockier faith.
        A specioUs misery can have no role
        When loVe carves mankind on a turning lathe.
        Leave Wallowing in painful circumstance,
        DetoX your spirit, and proceed in peace,
        ObeY the truth, proclaimed at our instance
        RaZe nought, lest you delay your sweet release.
        For otherwise the beauty’s left unmade
        And truth indeed is finally betrayed.

      • Richard November 5, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

        jenny – would you capitalise the X, Y and Z for me, please. 😦

      • jenny November 6, 2011 at 6:30 am #

        CQ: Come back next week for the Vilanelle: Do ULRs (Unnecessary Line Repetitions) make a poem?

      • Cyberquill November 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

        OK. I’ll be back.

        Abgemacht. Ich komme wieder.

        D’accord. Je reviendrai.

  9. Richard November 5, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Above banal competition,

    Feverish gropings have inevitably just kept leading many nervously
    Onwards, persistently quashing rhyme.

    Spirituality tries untrodden, vital ways,
    Xenophobia yields zilch.

  10. Richard November 5, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    Anyone been caught?
    Dead easy for geeks
    Hopeless if jaded

    Keep laughing!
    Most never overcome.

    Parsing quaint rhythms sometimes
    troubles undisciplined versers, withal:

    Xanthe yoked Zeus?!

  11. Mr. Crotchety November 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Aardvarks beg confinement,
    dolphins evade freedom,
    giraffes hale incarceration,
    just knowing landscape moisture
    needs only pools quixotic.
    Robust succulent trees
    under value water.
    Xeriscape your zoo.

  12. jenny November 6, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    Richard and Mr. C,

    I feel totally outclassed now. My poem about better life through pharmacology (“Xanax, yea, Zoloft”) and the one I’ve been trying to sell to Z-life magazine convincing midwestern women that exercise is fun (“X-rated Ypsilanti Zumba”) now feel like excessively feverish gropings without the earnest environmental significance of the (now flourishing, so to speak) ‘xeriscape your zoo’ movement.

    At the blogging convention, I will buy you both a drink. Cheers!

  13. Jim M. November 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    A beautiful composition doesn’t exasperate — featuring goofily hidden ideas.

    Just kindly lend me nuance — over poetic quirkiness. 

    Respectfully — sense that unbridled verbosity will ‘xactly yield zip.

    • jenny November 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm #


      You had something to say (what an idea!), you said it with simple words (no irradiating) in phrases that a real person might use, and you made the form work.

      I think it’s better than Pinsky’s poem–more natural, more compact, more honest.

      • Jim M. November 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

        Nov. 9, 2011

        Sweat and Sprezzatura
        Chicagoland, IL 60609

        Attn: Framing Dept.

        Dear Sweat and Sprezzatura,

        I wish to place an order for a framed reproduction of the above comment, preferably with gold leaf, two-inch beige matting, beveled, under non-reflective glass, for immediate delivery.


        Jim M.

      • jenny November 10, 2011 at 6:14 am #



        I meant it.

    • dafna November 10, 2011 at 12:26 am #


      I can so do that for you! Come from a family of glass cutters, and actually your poem is remarkable.

  14. dafna November 10, 2011 at 12:36 am #


    you were right… we have slightly more girls than boys who are attending. and very few adults –

    i so wish you had a contact button. major tszouris. make sure to chime in when philippe gets to his midrash on Jacob and Esau… i’d could use some merry discourse.

  15. dafna November 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    “that’s what she said”, a fan of the t.v. show “Office”?

    • jenny November 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

      yeppers…yesh. 🙂

  16. Man of Roma November 19, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Trying to write
    A poem on plums
    My head feels dizzy
    (And a bit numb.)

  17. Hieronymo December 5, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    I guffawed at your parenthetical musing on the proper name of William Carlos William’s wife. Before making any comment about it, I decided to look her up. According to Wikipedia, “Williams married Florence Herman (1891–1976) in 1912, after his first proposal to her older sister was refused.”

    How does that work? What were family dinners like? This whole plum thing only seems to be scratching the surface of some very tricky family dynamics.

    • jenny December 7, 2011 at 7:10 pm #


      I had to investigate. Here’s what I found:

      “Williams began to date Charlotte Herman, as did his brother Edgar. The two brothers squabbled over the attractive girl until Edgar asked her to marry him, to which she agreed. William Carlos locked himself in his room until he realized that he should marry Charlotte’s sister Florence.”

      Florence married William Carlos Williams, and Charlotte married Edgar Carlos 😉 Williams. That’s some family dynamics.

  18. Philippe December 10, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    “…….Florence married William Carlos Williams, and Charlotte married Edgar Carlos Williams. That’s some family dynamics…..”.

    Happily, neither William nor Edgar took to wife both Charlotte and Florence.

    • jenny December 11, 2011 at 9:40 am #

      Philippe, this is my favorite kind of echoing. 🙂

      At a dull holiday party, as I complained about dull holiday parties, a friend said to me:

      You know that Billy Joel song “Just the Way You Are” with the line “Don’t want clever conversation…”? Well, I do want clever conversation.

      And I do. Thanks.


  1. There’s more enterprise « sweat and sprezzatura - March 30, 2012

    […] Kenneth Koch does with “This is Just to Say,” the very William Carlos Williams poem that charmed me a few months ago.  You can’t miss Koch’s wink at Williams (“I have eaten the […]

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