American Life in Poetry 

Linda Pastan, who lives in Maryland, is a master of the kind of water-clear writing that enables us to see into the depths. This is a poem about migrating birds, but also about how it feels to witness the passing of another year.

 

The Birds

are heading south, pulled

by a compass in the genes.

They are not fooled

by this odd November summer,

though we stand in our doorways

wearing cotton dresses.

We are watching them

as they swoop and gather--

the shadow of wings

falls over the heart.

When they rustle among

the empty branches, the trees

must think their lost leaves

have come back.

The birds are heading south,

instinct is the oldest story.

They fly over their doubles,

the mute weathervanes,

teaching all of us

with their tailfeathers

the true north.

 

Reprinted from The Imperfect Paradise, by Linda Pastan. Copyright (c) 1988 by Linda Pastan. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Ms. Pastan's most recent book is Queen of a Rainy Country, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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