Last Words of My Grandmother (First Version)

Williams, William Carlos

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

  • Date of entry: Jul-05-2001


The speaker describes his grandmother, just prior to her death. She is "impossible to get on with," unless you are the nineteen year old grandson, who has not just a soft spot for her, but who sees the benefits of a free place to stay and eat. On Thanksgiving Day just after dinner, "death touched the old lady," requiring that she move from the beach house where they had been staying to the family "home."

Several verses describe her decline: the ravings, the daze, the smell, the cries. She refused to go to the hospital, "I won't go." In alarm he calls an ambulance for the actively resistant woman. "Is this what you call / making me comfortable?" she cries to the lifting attendants. Then, as if to defy the "smart . . . young people," she lets them know she's still in charge by promptly dying. Her final words dismiss the elm trees seen from the ambulance window, and life as well: "Well, I'm / tired of them."


Williams shortened and modified this poem and published it later as The Last Words of My English Grandmother (see this database). In this first, longer version, the narrator himself and his relationship with grandmother play a more central role than in the later version. For those reading Williams in a literature and medicine context, Hugh Crawford's book, Modernism, Medicine, & William Carlos Williams (annotated in this database), may be of interest.


First published: 1924

Primary Source

The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 1


New Directions

Place Published

New York




A. Walton Litz & Christopher MacGowan