The poem begins with the speaker describing his last day of school, saying he waited in the infirmary until some of his family's neighbors drove him home. At his family's house, he encountered his father crying on the front porch, despite the fact that his father is typically unemotional at funerals. A friend named Jim Evans, meanwhile, commented that the loss being mourned was a hard one. Inside the speaker's home, a baby—likely a family member—babbled and laughed in its cradle. Meanwhile, old men visiting the home shook the speaker's hand and expressed sympathy with his loss, making the speaker feel embarrassed. They whispered to one another that the speaker was the oldest child in his family and that he had been away at boarding school.
The speaker's mother held his hand and made angry, sighing sounds, but didn't cry. Soon after, an ambulance arrived carrying the corpse of the recently deceased person. The corpse was bandaged and bruised. The next morning, the speaker went to the room where the corpse was being kept, which had been the deceased person's room when he was alive. People had surrounded the body with candles and snowdrops, a popular flower in Ireland. The speaker noticed the four-foot coffin in which the body had been placed. He also notices that despite its paleness, the corpse doesn't have any extremely noticeable cuts, because of just how directly it was hit by a car. Turning his attention to the coffin again, the speaker notices that its four-foot length is significant, matching the four years of the deceased person's life.