“This Is Just to Say”

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Hot Cha!

When you think William Carlos Williams, you think memorable name. You think Paterson, New Jersey. You think poetry slash doctor who wrote the compelling short story, “The Use of Force.”

And assuredly you think of the little-poem-that-could, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” where white chickens are forever pecking around a red wheelbarrow glinting with rain. Or maybe the sweetness of the simple but satisfying “This Is Just to Say,” where plums remain “so sweet / and so cold” in the timeless ice box of memory.

But such notoriety is no reason to skip reading deeper into a famous poet’s work. There are surprises. There are lesser-known and lesser-regarded works that may resonate with you, a poetry reader with your own discerning tastes.

“No ideas but in things,” WCW famously reminded us when he was in teacher mode. If you keep it simple and if you keep a sharp focus on “things” that have names, you can imply ideas that hide behind them.

By way of example, “Late for Summer Weather” is a thing de force (French for “great example”) with its objects (mostly clothes) and its colors (but no wheelbarrows in the rain).

It also features a most unusual, for the often dour-looking Williams, ending line. Shall we, then?


Late for Summer Weather
by William Carlos Williams

He has on
an old light grey Fedora
She a black beret

He a dirty sweater
She an old blue coat
that fits her tight

Grey flapping pants
Red skirt and
broken down black pumps

Fat Lost Ambling
nowhere through
the upper town they kick

their way through
heaps of
fallen maple leaves

still green-and
crisp as dollar bills
Nothing to do. Hot cha!


Ah. The beauty of working hard at doing nothing! The beauty of a straight neck looking around at nature as opposed to down at a cellphone like some bent Neanderthal training for a future Humpback Olympics. And mostly the beauty of a town called Fat Lost Ambling, New Jersey (Exit 157 on the Jersey Turnpike).

Hot cha!