I will teach you my townspeople
how to perform a funeral--
for you have it over a troop
of artists--
unless one should scour the world--
you have the ground sense necessary.
See! the hearse leads.
I begin with a design for a hearse.
For Christ's sake not black--
nor white either--and not polished!
Let it be weathered--like a farm wagon--
with gilt wheels (this could be
applied fresh at small expense)
or no wheels at all:
a rough dray to drag over the ground.
Knock the glass out!
My God--glass, my townspeople!
For what purpose? Is it for the dead
to look out or for us to see
how well he is housed or to see
the flowers or the lack of them--
or what?
To keep the rain and snow from him?
He will have a heavier rain soon:
pebbles and dirt and what not.
Let there be no glass--
and no upholstery, phew!
and no little brass rollers
and small easy wheels on the bottom--
my townspeople what are you thinking of?
A rough plain hearse then
with gilt wheels and no top at all.
On this the coffin lies
by its own weight.
   No wreaths please--
especially no hot house flowers.
Some common memento is better,
something he prized and is known by:
his old clothes--a few books perhaps--
God knows what! You realize
how we are about these things
my townspeople--
something will be found--anything
even flowers if he had come to that.
So much for the hearse.
For heaven's sake though see to the driver!
Take off the silk hat! In fact
that's no place at all for him--
up there unceremoniously
dragging our friend out to his own dignity!
Bring him down--bring him down!
Low and inconspicuous! I'd not have him ride
on the wagon at all--damn him--
the undertaker's understrapper!
Let him hold the reins
and walk at the side
and inconspicuously too!
Then briefly as to yourselves:
Walk behind--as they do in France,
seventh class, or if you ride
Hell take curtains! Go with some show
of inconvenience; sit openly--
to the weather as to grief.
Or do you think you can shut grief in?
What--from us? We who have perhaps
nothing to lose? Share with us
share with us--it will be money
in your pockets.
                         Go now
I think you are ready.
 
Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

Poems by This Author

A Love Song by William Carlos Williams
What have I to say to you
Approach of Winter by William Carlos Williams
The half-stripped trees
Asphodel, That Greeny Flower [excerpt] by William Carlos Williams
Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
Complaint by William Carlos Williams
They call me and I go
Complete Destruction by William Carlos Williams
It was an icy day
Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams
If when my wife is sleeping
Details for Paterson by William Carlos Williams
I just saw two boys
For the Poem Paterson [1. Detail] by William Carlos Williams
Her milk don't seem to
For the Poem Paterson [3. St. Valentine] by William Carlos Williams
A woman's breasts
Gulls by William Carlos Williams
My townspeople, beyond in the great world
It Is a Small Plant by William Carlos Williams
It is a small plant
Landscape With The Fall of Icarus by William Carlos Williams
According to Brueghel
Marriage by William Carlos Williams
So different, this man
Peace on Earth by William Carlos Williams
The Archer is wake
Poem [Daniel Boone] by William Carlos Williams
Daniel Boone, the father of Kentucky
Poem [on getting a card] by William Carlos Williams
on getting a card
Queen-Anne's-Lace by William Carlos Williams
Her body is not so white as
Smell by William Carlos Williams
Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed
Spring and All [By the road to the contagious hospital] by William Carlos Williams
By the road to the contagious hospital
Spring and All, XIV by William Carlos Williams
Of death
Spring Storm by William Carlos Williams
The sky has given over
Summer Song by William Carlos Williams
Wanderer moon
The Descent by William Carlos Williams
The descent beckons
The Great Figure by William Carlos Williams
Among the rain
The Hurricane by William Carlos Williams
The tree lay down
The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams
so much depends
The Uses of Poetry by William Carlos Williams
I've fond anticipation of a day
The Widow's Lament in Springtime by William Carlos Williams
Sorrow is my own yard
This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
To a Poor Old Woman by William Carlos Williams
munching a plum on
To Elsie by William Carlos Williams
The pure products of America
Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams
All the complicated details


Further Reading

Poems About Birth and Parenting
A Woman Waits for Me
by Walt Whitman
Acrobat
by Elise Paschen
After Making Love We Hear Footsteps
by Galway Kinnell
Before the Birth of One of Her Children
by Anne Bradstreet
Central Park, Carousel
by Meena Alexander
Curriculum Vitae
by Lisel Mueller
Daughter-Mother-Maya-Seeta
by Reetika Vazirani
Gods
by Michael Redhill
Goodnight Moon
by James Arthur
Honey
by Arielle Greenberg
In a Landscape: IV
by John Gallaher
Infant Joy
by William Blake
Lost in thought, the baby
by Rebecca Wolff
Morning Song
by Sylvia Plath
Motherhood, 1951
by Ai
Shoulders
by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Difference between a Child and a Poem
by Michael Blumenthal
The Mother
by Gwendolyn Brooks
The Sick Child
by Robert Louis Stevenson
To My Mother Waiting on 10/01/54
by Teresa Carson
Wedding Album 1977
by Tess Taylor
With Child
by Genevieve Taggard
You Begin
by Margaret Atwood