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I always relish the turn to autumn each year–it has remained my favorite season unabated through half a century.

And yet, as Steve’s piece yesterday so plaintively examined, new seasons bring new losses. Or said another way: maybe as someone in the autumn of life, I’m beginning to feel those losses differently. It puts me in mind of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “Spring and Fall,” that begins by chronicling the sadness a young girl feels for the leaves falling, but concludes with the devastating claim that the object of our mourning is really our own mortality.

But still–autumn has its own work, even if some of it is hard to face. Karina Borowicz’ poem (a new discovery for me) captures that experience exquisitely. And yet, like Margaret of Hopkins’ poem, Borowicz’s speaker also knows that the cost of compost is the eternal price of future growth, of the spring to come.

September Tomatoes
By Karina Borowicz 

The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.
Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.
My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.

Photo by Nagara Oyodo on Unsplash

Jennifer L. Holberg

I am professor and chair of the Calvin University English department, where I have taught a range of courses in literature and composition since 1998. An Army brat, I have come to love my adopted hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m also the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture. My book, Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith, was published in July 2023 by Intervarsity Press.


  • Jeff Carpenter says:

    Borowicz’s last stanza, invoking an everyday-life scene from her great-grandmother’s experience, reinforces my fantasy/dream, that if I could time-travel, where would I go, what would I wish to see? More and more it is to shadow my great-grandparents for at least one day, to witness and hopefully comprehend their lives lived in their day. Family trees have given me a back- list to ponder.
    Thanks for this piece, and for a new poet to discover!

  • Jack says:

    Thank thee. Sigh.

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