Liz Lochhead is Scotland's national poet or Makar and her poetry is reflective of her surroundings, experiences and many of the issues affecting women. She does not shy away from controversy, using it to express ideas and provoke discussion. Many of her titles are matter-of-fact and she addresses her readers with a straightforward, no frills, agenda. After A Warrant Sale is one such title which leaves no illusions and ensures that the reader's expectations are realistic.
After A Warrant Sale puts "Ann's" life in perspective; something clearly Ann never did herself during her marriage. The use of metaphor to create the visual image of the absolute end of something is blunt and to, "Tear her life along the dotted line officially," leaves no doubt that this is a devastating event for Ann; even if she always knew that, unofficially, there was no love in her marriage.
The talk of Ann's hair being "lightened," for her marriage and revealing hope for the future suggests that perhaps problems were overlooked even at the beginning and "the trouble, dark roots," cleverly extends the metaphor as light and hope are replaced with darkness and trouble. Using alliteration to describe Ann's husband, "Wedding-Day Walter," implies that Walter never took his marriage seriously.
The short lines; for example, "sheriff court men..., impersonally..., officially..., a photograph..., and the blame..., and Ann's leaving..." ensure that Lochhead does not waste words but gets to the point succinctly and emphasizes the formality of a warrant of execution. There is no room for emotion and Ann's "dry eyes" bear testament to that. The short lines also essentially summarize much of the story and, together with the minimal punctuation which characterizes this work, they ensure that it has a tone which reflects the harshness and validity of the event.
The irregular flow prevents the reader from becoming complacent in accepting Ann's plight, as the narrator, Ann's neighbor, is inquiring and questioning Ann's motives in allowing matters to progress this far, "Long past the death of love..." Personifying love puts the problem into perspective and continuing the thread with talk of "ashes" confirms that there is no going back. This is final. It seems that expecting love to, "completely solve me," is too much to ask.