"Out, Out-" is the story of a Vermont tragedy. A boy is using a chain saw to cut fire wood for the family. The narrator of the poem is concerned about this, as it appears to be a "big boy doing a man's work, though a child at heart" with the powerful piece of equipment.
When the boy's sister announces "Supper," the chain saw jerks out of the boy's control and cuts one of his hands so deeply that he is left "holding up the hand half in appeal, but half as if to keep the life from spilling" as he cries for help. Recognizing the severity of the injury, the boy pleads with his sister, "Don't let him cut my hand off—The doctor, when he comes. Don't let him, sister!"
The plea is in vain, however. As the doctor works on the injury, with the boy under ether, his heart unexpectedly slows and then stops. The others present, "since they were not the one dead," resume their other activities.
The poem is written in free verse form, with no specific rhythm or rhyme scheme. It uses short, descriptive vocabulary with repetitive letter sounds and personification to add to the effect of the story. Hard caesuras, the breaks that mark distinct shifts in the action, emphasize important developments.