‘Death Came to See Me in Hot-Pink Pants’
“The tragedy of education is not lack of brain power, but doing so little with what we have.”
PLEASE DON’T let the above be said in reference to you. In this week’s ‘class’ we are going to continue our work on poetry. Dr Heather Royes, a communications consultant and poet, penned an intriguing work titled Death Came to see me in Hot-Pink Pants. Wow! What a title. You must have been curious to find out about a poem with such a title. I know I was. I wanted to find out how something usually seen as frightening could be described as wearing pink and not just any pink but ‘hot’ pink. So, from the outset, from the very title, we are presented with the idea that death can be made to appear fascinating.
Now, if you have not yet read this poem, please do so before reading any more of this lesson. Then read it again. When you have done so, I want you to consider the title. First, we are told by the speaker that he/she had received a visit from Death. Alarming to say the least! For, to be visited by an entity that takes away life and from which one cannot escape is not a pleasant nor normally a longed-for experience. Wait a minute – we are then told that Death is attractively dressed. Did you just exclaim “Hotness!”
Do you know the word strut, as in confident way of moving? Dressed in bright pink pants – and we know it was bright because of the word hot attached to it – we can imagine that this man, Death, walked with a swagger. Of course, you are also aware that hot can be extended to describe Death’s attractive physical appearance. So, from the title we have learnt that Death, that force that is considered an enemy of most human beings, can be seen as alluring or, more accurately, pleasingly packaged. Here is something that I would like you to think about before proceeding. Can Death be so pleasingly packaged that one welcomes it?
Everyone has dreams. The opening statement of this poem repeats the title and adds ‘and
matching waistcoat too.’ This article of dress is a close-fitting, waist-length garment, usually both sleeveless and collarless, buttoned down the front, worn especially by men over a shirt and under a jacket. It is, as I’m sure you know, worn over a shirt but not necessarily under a jacket, unless the occasion is formal. It does add to a man’s appearance. By the way, I know that women wear waistcoats/vests too. It just happened that on the day I was writing this lesson, some young women visited me. Their opinion is that a waistcoat adds something to a man, that they called ‘sass’, ‘class’ or ‘pizzaz’. The feeling is that a man wearing a waistcoat shows that he cares about his appearance and wishes to be accepted as such.
Then we learn that he is so handsome that he is beautiful, and is a sweet boy, a ‘player’, one given to having fun. Up to this point in the poem, we are given the type of description of this character’s appearance that is in conflict with our perceived notion of him.
The following line, however, makes us think that he is showing his true colours. For what can we understand from ‘Forcing open the small door of my wooden cage’ but that Death does not wait for an invitation. It goes where it wills. The use of force must have initially, at least, frightened the persona. Anyone would be frightened to have one’s house or room door forced open. We have to think about the speaker’s use of the words ‘my wooden cage’. Are we hearing that the speaker lived in a small board house? Is it that the speaker’s circumstances are hard and difficult, lacking in luxury and perhaps even basic amenities, or that the person is confined by others, having no freedom? Any or all of the above would have an impact on how this visitor is received. Until our next ‘class’, reflect on the above. God bless!