The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Home Burial,” a dramatic narrative largely in the form of dialogue, has 116 lines in informal blank verse. The setting is a windowed stairway in a rural home in which an unnamed farmer and his wife, Amy, live. The immediate intent of the title is made clear when the reader learns that the husband has recently buried their first-born child, a boy, in his family graveyard behind the house. The title can also be taken to suggest that the parents so fundamentally disagree about how to mourn that their “home” life is in mortal jeopardy—in danger of being buried. Further, Amy, because of her introspective grieving, risks burying both her marriage and her sanity.

The husband enters the stairway from below and sees her before she sees him, because she is wrapped up in herself. He tardily observes that she has been looking out the stairway window at the graveyard, already containing four of “my people” and “the child’s mound.” She doubts that he ever noticed the graveyard from that window and cries out for him to stop talking. Avoiding his touch, she shrinks past him down the stairs. When he asks why a man cannot speak of his “lost” child, she counters first by saying “Not you!” and then by doubting that any man can. She abruptly announces that she must get some air. He tells her not to take her grief to “someone else this time,” sits so as not to seem domineering, and, calling her “dear,” says he wishes to ask her something....

(The entire section is 562 words.)