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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 17, 2017.
About this Poem 

“‘Late Summer’ moves from a garden path in the Blue Ridge to a public cemetery and a ritual in Kiev, Ukraine, where, on the first Sunday after Orthodox Easter, families gather to picnic in cemeteries in remembrance of their dead relatives. Of pagan origin, the feast lasts till sundown.”
—James Brasfield

Late Summer

Now cosmos in bloom and snow-in-summer
opening along the garden’s stone borders,

a moment toward a little good fortune,
water from the watering can,

to blossom, so natural, it seems, and still
the oldest blooms outside my door are flourishing

according to their seedtime. 
They have lived as in trust

of tended ground, not of many seasons
as the lingering bud in late summer,

when leaves have reached their greenest,
when a chill enters the nights,

when a star I’ve turned to, night after night,
vanished in the shift of constellations. 

But when on a bare branch,
even in August, a sprig starts,

sprig to stem—as if to say, See,
there’s kinship with the perennials

you think so hardy—voice
the moment among the oaks, toast

the spring in summer, as once each May
a shot of vodka is poured on bare dirt

among gravestones to quench the dead,
among the first stars of this new evening.

 

Copyright © 2017 by James Brasfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by James Brasfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

James Brasfield

James Brasfield

James Brasfield is the author of Infinite Altars (Louisiana State University Press, 2016). He teaches at Penn State University and lives in State College, Pennsylvania.

by this poet

poem

Radiant the delayed calmness,
—Do you feel it, I said. —Yes, you said,

of what only each can know,
kernel of radiance, the globo terrestre

of a water drop, not the passing adaptations
of canonical light, but seconds stilled—

our hearts beating through the moments—centuries

poem

         How time slowed when any thought     
     or apprehension of the next instant
             vanished (no obligation, then or later),

         how in that long moment, all at once,
     yet without surprise, how what was close
             was present in a sudden suspense,   

poem

A cortege of clouds’
shifting planes 

reflected on a river,
the current’s weave deepens,

yet motionless
the dramatization of

a fern unfolding,
light illuminating the air

for a moment’s threshold,
when time, where we stand,

corresponds to the day
held firm

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