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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963 / San Francisco)

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Out, Out

The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them "Supper." At that word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap -
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all -
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man's work, though a child at heart -
He saw all spoiled. "Don't let him cut my hand off -
The doctor, when he comes. Don't let him, sister!"
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then - the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little - less - nothing! - and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003


Read poems about / on: sister, sunset, work, child, dark, heart, light, running, children, believe

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  • Stephen W (7/4/2013 4:10:00 PM)

    @miley: I don't think this takes place in a factory. His sister is there. It is more likely a rural family enterprise. Also he is not a small child, but a 'big boy, Doing a man's work'. I suggest you consult the text, rather than anachronistic prejudices.

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  • Miley Stephans (2/4/2013 11:55:00 AM)

    I think that the fault is with the people who try to make small children work in factories. The poem blames the people who take children for work. And since they are not the ones dead, They didn't care at all.

  • * Sunprincess * (11/2/2012 11:20:00 PM)

    wow..the message of the poem is life is very fragile ...fabulous write.. :)

  • Raquel Sanchez (8/7/2008 2:28:00 PM)

    The title actually has quotation marks on it: 'Out, Out'. This is significant to me and is among my favorites because I see a link to Shakespeare:

    'Out, out, brief candle. Life is but a walking shadow
    An actor that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more.'

    While one is living, our very existence, regardless of the role we play, has
    its significance. However, upon death, the curtain falls for that person alone, and everyone remaining must resume our performances.

  • Greg Dent (5/2/2007 8:04:00 AM)

    For my part the story is one of shock, not just that the boy died from shock, but the shock of those around him at his sudden passing....from a harmless distraction; 'supper'

  • Terry Moore (11/20/2006 9:39:00 AM)

    I had to memorize a poem in 7th grade and I chose this one bc of the darkness of it, but still Frost takes the boy's death so nonchalantly. When I recited it to the class I heard many gasps lol. Good stuff...

  • Chris Graham (9/29/2006 6:08:00 PM)

    Holy crap. He's dead?

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