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30 November -0001

Letting Go

The Last Words Of My English Grandmother

There were some dirty plates 

and a glass of milk 

beside her on a small table 

near the rank, disheveled bed-- 

Wrinkled and nearly blind 

she lay and snored 

rousing with anger in her tones 

to cry for food, 

Gimme something to eat-- 

They're starving me-- 

I'm all right-- I won't go 

to the hospital. No, no, no 

Give me something to eat! 

Let me take you 

to the hospital, I said 

and after you are well 

you can do as you please. 

She smiled, Yes 

you do what you please first 

then I can do what I please-- 

Oh, oh, oh! she cried 

as the ambulance men lifted 

her to the stretcher-- 

Is this what you call 

making me comfortable? 

By now her mind was clear-- 

Oh you think you're smart 

you young people, 

she said, but I'll tell you 

you don't know anything. 

Then we started. 

On the way 

we passed a long row 

of elms. She looked at them 

awhile out of 

the ambulance window and said, 

What are all those 

fuzzy looking things out there? 

Trees? Well, I'm tired 

of them and rolled her head away.

William Carlos Williams

We read the above poem to ourselves, and then listened to it being read. We then talked over our first impressions of the poem; we focused on the significance of ‘last words’, and more generally on ‘last times’ (of seeing someone, of doing something you love or hate, of wearing a pair of jeans or a wedding ring). We looked at how WCW moved the poem along through his use of dialogue and action, at what the lines told us about his grandmother, and what it suggested about their relationship. A consistent opinion was regards the directness of the poem, how the truth of the story was unvarnished for the sake of memory-- and how this gave the voice of the poem integrity.

The exercise was to explore a ‘last time’ through free-writing.


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