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November 1, 2013

Poetry Friday--"The Last Greeting of Autumn"

"Last Greeting of Autumn" by Bertha Wegmann, courtesy The Athenaeum.

One of my favorite online sites is The Athenaeum, which has over 100,000 works of art for you to browse. I found the painting above, which is perfect for today. It's by Bertha Wegmann, a Danish woman who lived 1847 to 1926. Here's a short video of Wegmann's work; it also includes a photo of her at the end.

My poem for today is inspired by Wegmann's painting and informed by my having lived in New Hampshire for 37 years:
The Last Greeting of Autumn

In the transitory days of October
she combs the verges of her
stone walls like a wayward crow.
She picks Goldenrod, blue tufted
Chicory, red berries of Purple
Nightshade, Sumac the color
of cinnabar, and, Daisy Fleabane.
She takes her time, only cutting
herbage barely touched by the
increasingly cold crisping winds.
For interest she selects tall,
feathery, Indian grass, the wide
leaves of Fox Grape, and lacy
Wild Carrot. Her neighbor's Catalpa
yields a handful of twisting pods.

She places these remnants of two
seasons, in a vase, near the door.
Unlike the crow, she takes no
nourishment from her gleanings--
unless you consider the pleasure
it gives her as days grow shorter.
The arrangement grows brown and
slowly fades in the moistureless
heat from aging radiators. Still,
it will remain for months--through
times when all colors but gray
and white have disappeared from
the world outside. It will be there
to greet the next equinox and then,
undoubtedly, will end up as compost.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

The Round-Up today is being held at TeacherDance, and next Friday it will be right here! See you then!


  1. Beautiful response, love that you know the names of all the plants that could be gathered. I tend to bring in an assortment, trying to hold onto the plants before they are cut back and raked away, so love "consider the pleasure/it gives her as days grow shorter." Your poem touched me, Diane. Thank you, and for the link to the picture gallery!

    1. Actually, it helps to work in a library where you have access to all sorts of field guides! Some plants are not what I thought they were!

  2. I really enjoy poems written in response to paintings. Love the listing of all the floral species, and the wistful, reflective tone of your poem.

    1. Thanks, Jama! Here's something you're probably aware of, but I just noticed on our new book shelf here at the library: a novel called Finding Colin Firth by Mia March. The novel puts me in mind of the Colin Firth DVD I saw not too long ago called Hope Springs. Both the novel and the movie take place in New England.

  3. I can picture your narrator as she picks these treasures that will carry her through winter (and I admire that she throws them in the compost by the spring equinox...I've been know to keep dusty dried flowers until I pick new ones the next fall.) Love your poem.

  4. Thanks, Buffy. You're not the only one who neglects to toss out old arrangements!

  5. Lovely poem, Diane... 'tis a treat to get two DM originals on one Poetry Friday! Like those flowers you rattle off so effortlessly, they give me much pleasure as the days grow shorter.

    1. Ah shucks, Michelle. Poetry Friday-ers are so very kind and generous! Here's a song I remember from my childhood that I think is apropos.

  6. I felt I was right there with your narrator, picking the flowers, arranging them for the coming months of gloom. Creating hope. Lovely.

    1. Thanks, Bridget! I have a feeling this year we're going to get a lot of gloomy weather, so we best be prepared.

  7. What a treasure this post is! Not only do I love your poem, but I didn't know about The Athenaeum. What a fabulous site! Thanks!

    1. You're going to love The Athenaeum. I love to dive into it at random. For me that usually means clicking on "By artist," then putting a word in the search box and seeing what comes up. Or, if I click on "Random artworks" it brings up an interesting mix of art. Have fun!

  8. Love it! "She" could pick all of those here in Ohio, too! They'll turn brown and dusty, but your poem will remain warm and full of Autumn year round!

  9. Thanks, Mary Lee! It looks to be a great Saturday morning--get out there and pick some weeds!

  10. good write and your choice of image just right, thanks for leaving the poetry round up Link, i posted; thanks for stopping over at my blog

    have a great weekend

    much love...

  11. Oooh, I love this, Diane! Loved all the names of the herbs, the way she arranges it and then leaves it, browning in the apartment's heat! Wonderful! Great artwork too!

    1. Thanks BJ! If it weren't for the art, I wouldn't have written the poem.