This year, as the beauties of the autumn season reveals itself, I find myself regarding the fall as the beginning of the year. A time when the natural glories of the spring and summer have ended, a new year has begun. This season, it seems that autumn poems—with their capacity to express our emotional landscapes—help me find the autumnal perspectives I was looking for.
These are autumn poems of remembrance, beauty, and an awareness of the cycles of life—the need to have our own conversations and reckoning with mortality.
The Best Autumn Poems
Read these autumn poems with a cozy mug of tea for your best reading experience.
1. Song for Autumn by Mary Oliver
Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for
the fires that will come—six, a dozen—to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its long blue shadows. The wind wags
its many tails. And in the evening
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
2. Fall, leaves, fall by Emily Brontë
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen day and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
3. Samhain by Annie Finch
(The Celtic Halloween)
In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
…Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil
that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.
I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and who I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother’s mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings
arms that carry answers for,
intimate, a waiting bounty,
“Carry me.” She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.
4. Perhaps the World Ends Here by Joy Harjo
The world begins at a kitchen table. No Matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
…It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
5. Under the Harvest Moon by Carl Sandburg
Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.
6. A Sunset of the City by Gwendolyn Brooks
Already I am no longer looked at with lechery or love.
My daughters and sons have put me away with marbles and dolls,
Are gone from the house.
My husband and lovers are pleasant or somewhat polite
And night is night.
It is a real chill out,
The genuine thing.
I am not deceived, I do not think it is still summer
Because sun stays and birds continue to sing.
It is a real chill out. The fall crisp comes.
I am aware there is winter to heed.
There is no warm house
That is fitted with my need.
I am cold in this cold house this house
Whose washed echoes are tremulous down lost halls.
I am a woman, and dusty, standing among new affairs.
I am a woman who hurries through her prayers.