Poetry Sunday: “In Late Summer,” by Tess Taylor

In Late Summer


Wind on the lake, sun in the corn.
We swam in the pond as long as we could.
We save the rich blue on our inner eyes:

the apples make sugar of light.
Even so the sun comes up late.
Fare-thee-well says the light in the wood,

& starlings scatter off from the yarrow.


Afternoons expand into silence.

A page turns
in the mind-sized room.

Light on the floor plays cello tones.

It is not coming back, what has gone.
A conceit, a conceit:

some war & apocalypse wait
held off—a bit—in the cricket’s chirp—


From Work & Days (Red Hen Press 2019) by Tess Taylor, reprinted here with permission of the press. Work & Days is available for order here.


Tess Taylor‘s chapbook of poems, The Misremembered World, was selected by Eavan Boland for the Poetry Society of America’s inaugural chapbook fellowship. The San Francisco Chronicle called her first book, The Forage House, “stunning,” and it was a finalist for the Believer Poetry Award. Her second book, Work & Days, was called “our moment’s Georgic” by critic Stephanie Burt and named one of the ten best books of poetry of 2016 by The New York Times. Taylor’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Tin House, The Times Literary Supplement, CNN, and many other venues. Taylor is the on-air poetry reviewer for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and served as Distinguished Fulbright US Scholar at the Seamus Heaney Centre in Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She has taught at UC Berkeley, Whittier, and St. Mary’s College. Her next book, Rift Zone, is due out from Red Hen Press in 2020. Her work will appear in the MoMA show, “Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures,”in February 2020. Taylor grew up and lives today in El Cerrito, California.


Work & Days reviews (selected): 



Links to other work by the author:



Poet’s Note

This is a poem for that moment when the season starts to wane, leaving behind a sort of golden feeling—a poem of savoring that light while noting its disappearance. The poem luxuriates in that light, and in that water, while also knowing the time has begun to feel bounded, limited: “We swam in the pond as long as we could.” I suppose it’s rather a literal reading of that light and season and its sensations, though I note how, in savoring these moments, at the verge of a darker or harder or even different season, the poem is bold to claim that “some war & apocalypse wait—”

I wrote this on a year when I was living on a farm and trying to have a child and had had a miscarriage, and in some ways, I guess had come to a place of some reckoning, with the season of my own life I was in. But I don’t think I was writing that consciously in this poem, but instead I was just, in the act of appreciating that light, in that year, trying to come to words about them, trying to stave off one of the usual terrors. In a sense, it is also a poem of coming into some stillness with myself, with an afternoon—its texture, its silence, its crickets.

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  • Susan Hankla August 25, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Reading your column is like sipping on Golden Seal tea for mental health.

  • Meryl Natchez August 19, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    Lovely poem that really captures that end-of-summer longing.