Could I get an analysis of "May" by Bruce Weigl?

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "May" by Bruce Weigl occurs as the speaker is taking his/her dog to the vet in order to be put to sleep. The central purpose of this poem is to illustrate a paradoxical issue: putting an end to others' suffering often creates suffering for the one who goes to the effort on behalf of the sufferer.

The author achieves this purpose through the imagery of the veterinarian's office:

  • the chrome table
  • the nurse shaved May's skinny leg
  • passed the needle to the doctor.

He further achieves he purpose through the themes of guilt and sadness expressed through emotions expressed by both the speaker and the doctor:

and for once I knew what to do
and held her head against mine.
I cleaved to that smell
and lied into her ear
that it would be all right.
The veterinarian, whom I'd fought
about when to do this thing
said through tears

This act hurt the doctor to do, and it hurt the speaker to lie to his dog. It caused tension between the two. Although it had been confusing, when the time came to act, both played their roles for the betterment of the animal, but suffered in the wake of the event.

The entire poem seems to serve as a symbol for those who resolve to act on behalf of others, or for the good of humanity in general. It is as if Weigl suggest this subtly by inserting the desire to stop "all suffering" and later to bear the weight in his arms "of the world."

The structure of the poem does not position itself in a meaningful rhyme or meter, thus it is free verse.

On an interpretive level, the poem communicates an instance to be there for those who suffer at their moments of greatest pain. In fact, the substitution of a human for a dog would give the poem a whole different level of meaning, but yet we fail sometimes to value other humans' needs like we do animals' needs sometimes. This is a strong reminder to care for others.


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