The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Last Things” is a forty-seven-line meditation that is divided into four stanzas. Included in William Meredith’s 1970 collection, Earth Walk: New and Selected Poems, “Last Things” is one of the thirteen new poems that make up the opening section of the collection; it is the last poem—the impact poem—of the opening section.

In the eleven-line first stanza, the poet observes a porcupine crossing a road. The porcupine’s movements are described as reminding him of other “relics”: “Possum, armadillo, horseshoe crab.” They seem “arthritic with time.” The porcupine and the other creatures are neither cute nor graceful, and “In all their slowness we see no dignity.” The porcupine is “oblivious,” though, to its standing on the evolutionary chart, and at the end of the stanza “he falls off/ Deliberately and without grace into the ferns.” Meredith moves to a completely new location in the thirteen-line second stanza. He describes the situation of a different type of relic, old cars in a junkyard. The contents and arrangement of the junkyard are detailed. The “old cars” have been “kept for the parts”; there are “Fenders and chassis and the engine blocks.” The rows in the junkyard conjure up the image of “an old orchard” that follows “the contours of the hill.” The cars and their various parts are on display for the purpose of being picked clean to satisfy the needs of still-functioning cars. The...

(The entire section is 558 words.)