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Skunk Hour

Skunk Hour

by Robert Lowell

Stanza 4 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 19-20

And now our fairy
decorator brightens his shop for fall,

  • A local shop owner decorates his shop for the season.
  • Why he's called a "fairy decorator" we can't be sure. But considering how much Lowell likes to play around with word associations and meanings, he might be working the fairy tale thing from the beginning of the poem (where the old lady in her cottage is a queen, etc.).
  • "Fairy decorator" could also be a derogatory way of describing the man – that he's somehow girly or dainty.

Lines 21-22

his fishnet's filled with orange cork,
orange, his cobbler's bench and awl,

  • "Fishnet" here is literally a net for fish, but if we go a little further with the possibly insulting way of describing the shop owner, it might be a play on fishnet stockings.
  • The shop owner is decorating his store with orange things, because orange is one of the main colors of autumn.
  • An "awl" is a type of tool for poking holes in leather and a "cobbler" isn't a tasty dessert here, it's someone who fixes shoes – this is probably a shoe repair shop.

Lines 23-24

there is no money in his work,
he'd rather marry.

  • This shop owner doesn't make a lot of money from his business.
  • "He'd rather marry" is a funny insight. Apparently the speaker knows enough about the man to know what he wants – that he'd rather settle down than have to work a low-paying job.

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