Published on Academy of American Poets (

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.

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


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.

Date Published: 2017-08-17

Source URL: