The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Death’s Blue-Eyed Girl” is a short poem in accentual-syllabic meter. Its fourteen lines are divided into two stanzas. The first four-line stanza introduces the thematic question of the poem by way of two related similes; it also identifies the poem’s intended audience and establishes a meditative mood. The second stanza attempts to answer the question posed at the beginning of the poem: When does death become a real presence in life? This stanza is a meditation on death and one’s shifting perceptions of death and loss. The ideas in the poem are developed almost entirely through the use of metaphor.

The title of the poem recalls a line from E. E. Cummings’s poem “Buffalo Bill ’s.” That poem, which was published in 1923, is about the death of the speaker’s childhood hero (Buffalo Bill). In the final lines, the speaker personifies death in order to make sense of the loss of someone who seemed immortal. He asks, “and what i want to know is/ how do you like your blueeyed boy/ Mister Death.” In Linda Pastan’s poem, the blue-eyed girl refers to Elaine, someone close to the speaker, who has died. Pastan also personifies death at the end of the poem, turning it into a magician. The debt to E. E. Cummings is clear in both the specific language and the thematic concerns of Pastan’s poem.

The speaker in the poem is not a persona distinct from the poet, and the “you” addressed is a relative, spouse, or close friend. Yet the...

(The entire section is 530 words.)