Friday, August 26, 2011

Plums in Summer: So Sweet & So Cold

This is just to say that I am unable to see a plate of ripe summer plums without hearing the words of the famous short poem by William Carlos Williams, in which he asks his wife to forgive him for eating the plums that were in the icebox.

Williams was a physician in Rutherford, New Jersey, where he was born in 1883. He and his wife Flossie raised their two children in the home where he also maintained his medical office; upstairs in the attic was a small room where he wrote many volumes of poetry and prose until his death in 1963.

When reading the poem, I picture Williams standing in the cool, dark kitchen early on a summer morning, eating the plums before going into his office. In his day, a plum was a plum; no multicolored sticker was required to describe its essence. Having lived half his life before the advent of refrigeration, Williams naturally used the word "icebox" in the poem, evoking an era long gone.

But the sensation of eating a piece of sweet, ripe fruit is timeless, and Williams captures it in just 33 words. His experience remains as vivid today as on the morning he wrote those words. Late summer is a good time to give in to the temptations of plums and poetry.

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
1883- 1963