I listen to a lot of podcasts as I work during the day. Sometimes I get lost in my work and don’t even hear what’s being pumped into my ears. Other times, I hear something interesting enough to stop my work long enough to replay it and make notes on the subject for future reference.  

One day I was listening to This American Life, (podcast #354 titled, “Mistakes Were Made,” posted on 4/13/09, to be precise). They discussed non-apology apologies, like the kind of, “I’m sorry I got caught,” apologies we hear from many politicians.

At 49:43 of the podcast, the narrator, Ira Glass, introduces a segment called, “This is Just to Say”. The premise is, what would happen if we took the casual approach to an apology as expressed in the poem, “This is Just to Say,” by William Carlos Williams.

Here’s the poem (said to be an actual note left for his wife):

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

The poem doesn’t really express remorse. Some would argue that there is no apology at all. The “forgive me” line is a demand, not a request. It is more like, forgive me for saying how much I enjoyed doing this. Maybe there’s guilt but not remorse.

The poem has been revised many times in and out of the classroom. Here are a few examples of variations on this theme:

Andrew Vecchione (in 6th grade when he wrote this)
Sorry, But It Was Beautiful

This is just to say
sorry I took your money
and burned it.

But it looked
like the world falling apart
when it crackled and burned.

So I think it was worth it.
After all
you can’t see the world fall apart every day.


Shalom Auslander
I’m sorry you’re overweight
And drinking
And feeling like everything
In your life
Is doomed to failure
But this is probably why
Mom said
I was her favorite


David Rakoff
At our wedding
I disappeared briefly
To have sex with your sister
Up against the back of the port-o-sans

What can I say
The chardonnay was so fresh and cold
And I so full of love and a sense of family

And I said, I’m sure
One day we’ll laugh about this
Well, by one day
I meant that day
And by we
I meant me
And by laugh
I meant laugh


Poetry reminds me that less is often more. Much more. It takes more effort and time to write less … Here’s my attempt:

I was the Only Child, by Todd Vinson

I was the only child to crawl out of your womb
But not the only one you wanted
There was another for a brief time
But he or she was weak or lazy
Not a strong-willed child
Forgive me for choosing life and you to love
I am not selfish enough to leave or let another get in the way


You can read more (and post your own variation of the poem) at: