This is a narrative poem about the pitfalls of technology and its false promises. A boy gets a buzz saw in order to lighten his work load:
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
The boy is happy to have the machine do the work for him so that he can have more time to play.
However, the imagery
of the poem shows the buzz saw as dangerous and hostile. It snarls like a wolf and rattles like a snake:
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled
Like a dangerous animal, the machine turns on the boy and slices his hand off:
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling.
Suddenly, the saw that was supposed to make life beautiful ruins everything. The boy would have better off, the poem implies, using old-fashioned, slower technology, rather than trying to find short cuts to save time.
This is also a poem about death. The boy dies in the hospital:
They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there.
The final lines of the poem show a chilling indifference to death in this mechanized world:
And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
There is a sense earlier that too much is asked from this boy, that he is expected to grow up too soon using the buzzsaw:
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart
All in all, this is a grim and disturbing poem about a young boy who suffers a sad fate about which nobody deeply cares.