On “Finishing Up” by A.R. Ammons

Click here to read the poem.

In the poem “Finishing Up” by A.R Ammons, the narrator is describing his or her life, and talking about finishing up. He tells the reader what he has done in his life, and if it’s enough to get him up to the place where he seeks to be. The title is the most valuable piece of the poem explaining the man’s end goal, and what he has and needs to get there.

This man is very old, and he doesn’t know if he’s ready to go to heaven. “I wonder if I know enough to know what it’s really like to have been here:” He’s been through history, he has stories to tell, but he doesn’t have enough memories of life and places, to leave and never see them again. He’s worried that he would regret going to heaven, because even if he wants to go to heaven, he still loves being on earth, and seeing and remembering all of these wonderful things. He says that he was waiting for the white October clouds, like that day, and he loves to take them in and see them.

If he goes to heaven he believes he will be disconnected from the real world, and he will never see any of the special places in the world again. “Have I seen sights enough to give seeing over:” He’s been to these places, but not enough to be able to never see them again, because he hasn’t gotten the full experience. He wants to be able to have the freedom to continue to see these sights because they’re special, and he can’t see them forever. If he goes to heaven, he will no longer see any of the world, and he wants to be able to

By the end of his thought process he realizes that he shouldn’t leave this world yet, because he realizes that he isn’t ready and doesn’t know enough about the world. Never learning another thing is difficult, because that doesn’t allow someone to grow, and become a better person. “I suppose I haven’t done and seen enough yet to go, and, anyway, it may be way on on the way before one picks up the track of the sufficient, the world-round reach, spirit deep, easing and all, not just mind answering itself but mind and things apprehended at once as one, all giving all way, not a scrap of question holding back.” This man feels like he still has some questions about life, that until they are answered, he won’t want to leave Earth. When he says “not a scrap of question holding back,” he thinks there is still more to know, and when he finds it, he will be ready. He wants to be able to leave,and think to himself that he doesn’t have to do anything else to feel as if he has accomplished everything he can.


I wanted to figure out what this man was talking about when he said he wanted to finish up, or leave. This is an important piece of the poem, because if you don’t have a background for this poem, it will be hard to understand, and you will have no idea what you are reading. I had to sit and think about each line in this poem and figure out what I was seeing, because reading it made no sense, because of the way the words were put together. I figured this man is talking about going to heaven, because he keeps talking about never seeing these places again, which must mean he going to go to heaven, because there is no way to see these place again. When this man dies, and goes to heaven, he wants to feel as if his life is accomplished, and that he won’t have to worry about making a bad decision.

Works Cited

Ammons, A.R. “Finishing Up” Poetry September, 2017 Poetry Foundation https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/143951/finishing- up Accessed September 26, 2017

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