Autumn

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)
More Poems by Grace Paley