The Explanation

Zimmer, Paul

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese
  • Date of entry: Aug-22-2001


This is a two-verse, ten-line poem about the narrator's father, who is obviously being kept alive against his own will (he "stormed against equivocation, / Heaving against tubes and wires"). He wants no part of these life-sustaining gadgets; in fact, "they" have to "bind him down." Finally, the doctors ask him why he's acting this way and, unable to speak, the old man asks for a pencil and paper and angrily scribbles in his "clearest, / Most commanding hand, 'I am dead.'"


The poem presents end-of-life decisions and dilemmas from the point of view of a dying man. The adult child of the man is the observer, who doesn't tell readers his own feelings on the matter (how was he involved in the life-sustaining measures?), but reports on the dramatic message his father sends to all those who seek to keep him alive, for whatever reason.

Primary Source

Crossing to Sunlight


Univ. of Georgia Press

Place Published

Athens, Ga.