This week’s poem closes Wesley McNair’s new book, “The Unfastening” (Godine, 2017), his 10th poetry collection. McNair’s long body of work has often focused on stories, people and places that could easily be overlooked, many of them in northern New England.

A benediction is the giving of a blessing, and, in this case, the poem asks us to consider several kinds wildflowers in the fall, “beyond their flowering,” when we might think them “no longer / beautiful.” I’m reminded of Simone Weil, who said, “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.” McNair’s poem shows us that there is joy, and beauty, in paying attention to that which is near the end of its life cycle.

Wesley McNair will be reading and signing “The Unfastening” at the Portland Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17.


By Wesley McNair

Consider the lilies of the field,

how they grow

beyond their flowering, no longer

beautiful to our eyes. Consider

the brittle-petaled, black

centers of the black-eyed Susans,

waving like pom-poms

in the cold wind. There’s a joy in it,

the joy of everything

that dances around it,

the milkweeds dangling their old,

goose-bumpy pods,

the Queen Anne’s Lace

lifting the lacy purses

they have woven

from their blossoms. How could we

have overlooked the beauty

of the tiny, bristled stars

they now carry, or the hope,

among the brown clovers,

of the late bloomers, already living

the dream of their return?

Consider the dream

of the bloomers and of the wind-

torn blackberry bushes

holding out their stick fingers

that the birds have picked

clean. Consider the frosted heads

of the goldenrods

bending down to the ground,

and the milkweeds standing

straight up, giving themselves away.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2017 Wesley McNair. It originally appears in “The Unfastening” (Godine, 2017) and appears here by permission of the author and David R. Godine, publisher. This column is accepting submissions through Oct. 31. Poems must be written by Maine poets or about Maine. Submissions must be made online. For more information go to