Even as autumn can feel like a time of new beginnings, with the start of a new school year, it is simultaneously a time of endings, as our gardens wind down and we await the first frost. In Marita O’Neill’s beautiful and bittersweet poem “Putting to Bed,” the poem speaker seeks to learn from a garden’s endings how to let go of a harder human loss.

Marita O’Neill has her MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches high school English at Yarmouth High School in Maine.

Poets, please note that submissions to Deep Water are now open. Deep Water is especially eager to share poems by Black writers, writers of color, indigenous writers, and other underrepresented voices. There is a link to submit in the credits below.

Putting to Bed

By Marita O’Neill


Yarrow, foxtail, and sweet clover:

time to uproot. Time for laying


it down; time to put to rest.

Hardest are the marigolds,


all luster and smolder,

soft halo of color in the dying


garden. Two hollyhock buds about

to bloom. Patch of black-eyed daisies


still hanging on.  When the blue Chevy

passes, I think, Is it you? Then


your mother calls to ask if I want

your ashes to spread in the ocean by


our old house. Our house. First house.

House of broken things mended. House


of maple sugar burning in the garage.

House of goodbye and never to be seen


again. House where you died alone.

House where you sang


my name. House where once I was your

only. How to lay it all down? How to put


to rest angry roots that refuse to give?

How to lay down all the tasseled and golden?


Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Putting to Bed,” copyright © 2019 by Marita O’Neill, appears by permission of the author. Submissions to Deep Water are open now and through the end of November. For more information, go to mainewriters.org/deep-water.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: