Friday, April 25

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, April 25, 2014 8 comments
by W. D. Snodgrass (1926-2009)

Flowers like a gangster's funeral;
Photo credit: Seemann from
Eyeshadow like a whore.
They all say isn't she beautiful.
She, who never wore

Lipstick or such a dress,
Never got taken out,
Was scarcely looked at, much less
Wanted or talked about;

Who, gray as a mouse, crept
The dark halls at her mother's
Or snuggled, soft, and slept
Alone in the dim bedcovers.

Today at last she holds
All eyes and a place of honor
Till the obscene red folds
Of satin close down on her.

Poulin, A. Jr., ed. Contemporary American Poetry. 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985. 483-4.

Though written in fairly plain, workaday words, this piece is full of jarring juxtapositions that contrast who the recently departed woman was in life versus who she has become in death. I think this piece has a lot to say about today's glamour culture, and they way women are treated as if they matter only if they conform to certain standards of beauty. The sweet innocence of her snuggled under bedcovers jars with the final image of a red-satin lined coffin. In attempting to glamorize the deceased, they've turned her virginal innocence into a whorish spectacle.

What lines or images stand out to you?


  1. But there's also an element of sadness in it that no one paid this character any attention until she was gone.

    1. Absolutely. A bit of anger there too, it seems.

  2. I, too, feel this is very sad. The line "eyeshadow like a whore" makes me wonder why corpses have painted red cheeks, almost mocking the reality of their previous existence. It certainly is strange how funerals can over-glamourize and simultaneously turn someone's past life into a circus.

    1. Clearly funerals are for the living, and moments like this can reflect to us how mixed up our priorities are, and how little we often truly know one another. Underneath that I also hear a plea to wake up an pay attention to the good-hearted mousy folk among us while they're living.

  3. "She, who never wore
    Lipstick or such a dress," struck me. We were careful to make sure my mother was not "made-up" and I tucked tissues in her sleeve. She never went anywhere without them. Sad but this person's funeral just isn't respectful.

    1. Sad also that in life she wasn't known, "scarcely looked at, much less / Wanted or talked about." So she became a blank canvas to relatives. Glad you were able to make sure this didn't happen to your mother.

  4. This makes me remember my first time visiting a funeral home - I was five, and not allowed to go to my paternal grandmother's funeral, but I was allowed to watch the funeral director "try on" several shades of lipstick on my grandmother's lips. It was horrifying. I really don't like open casket funerals. It can be disgusting how we treat the bodies of our loved ones after they've already passed.

    1. I so agree with you on this one. I've been to only two viewings in my life and found it all so Gothic and like a holdover from Victorian wallowing in sentimentality. More spectacle than respectful.