Autumn

By Grace Paley 1922–2007 Grace Paley
1

What is sometimes called a   
   tongue of flame
or an arm extended burning   
   is only the long
red and orange branch of   
   a green maple
in early September   reaching
   into the greenest field
out of the green woods   at the
   edge of which the birch trees   
appear a little tattered   tired
   of sustaining delicacy
all through the hot summer   re-
   minding everyone (in   
our family) of a Russian
   song   a story
by Chekhov   or my father


2

What is sometimes called a   
   tongue of flame
or an arm extended   burning
   is only the long
red and orange branch of
   a green maple
in early September   reaching   
   into the greenest field
out of the green woods   at the   
   edge of which the birch trees
appear a little tattered   tired
   of sustaining delicacy
all through the hot summer   re-
   minding everyone (in   
our family) of a Russian
   song   a story by
Chekhov or my father on
   his own lawn   standing   
beside his own wood in
   the United States of   
America   saying (in Russian)
   this birch is a lovely
tree   but among the others
   somehow superficial

Grace Paley, “Autumn” from Long Walks and Intimate Talks by Grace Paley and Vera B. Williams. Copyright © 1991 by Grace Paley. Reprinted with the permission of The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, www.feministpress.org.

Source: Begin Again: The Collected Poems of Grace Paley (The Feminist Press, 1999)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Grace Paley 1922–2007

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Nature, Relationships, Fall

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Grace  Paley

Biography

With her first two books of short stories, Grace Paley established her niche in the world of letters. Her distinctive voice and verbal gifts have captured the hearts of critics who praise her vision as well as her style. In short and sometimes plotless tales, she plumbs the lives of working-class New Yorkers, mapping out what New York Review of Books contributing critic Michael Wood called "a whole small country of damaged, . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Nature, Relationships, Fall

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.