I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
I loved this poem (it's William Carlos Williams) the first time I read it, without really knowing why. The paradox is, it's so brief and fragile too much attention would crush it, but at the same time so dense you could think endlessly about its meanings. I wondered why I loved it so.
First, I love the idea of ‘found poetry’, which is what some say this is - a note on the kitchen table whimsically arranged in verse. You could think of it as a poet being lazy, but I like to think of it as a poet being attentive to poetry as something absolute, like mathematics, there in the universe for us to see or not see as our minds allow. I've always considered poetry - and maths, for that matter - miraculous.
Next, I love the form - and here's another paradox: it's in one way so formless, and in another so acutely formal that form is almost the only thing about it. There is no punctuation as such, but the sequence of words teaches you how to read it. The first two stanzas run together, one sentence, and it's only in the third that the line-ends open onto space and silence, an effect that's partly the syntax and partly the sense.
There's a lot you could say about the clues to character and narrative in the first two stanzas, and a lot has been said about the myth of forbidden fruit and so on, but what I love most I think is the shock of the resolution: the way it goes from the routine of breakfast to the ritual of forgiveness, the sacramental sweetness of the fruit. The ordered, humdrum rhythms of a household give way to a sudden lush immersion in the senses. We go from the mechanics of life to the experience of living. That final moment suspends time, refuses to end the poem, leaves us still tasting those delicious plums.
And here is the power of poetry: it describes life as it is lived, in its timeless moments, and in doing so makes it beautiful, makes it sacred. It's the adjectives - “so sweet and so cold” - not the verbs, that make life worth living.