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The Birds 
by Linda Pastan 
 
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 © 1988 by Linda Pastan. Publisher, W.W. Norton
& Company, Inc. Ms. Pastan’s most recent book is “Queen of a Rainy
Country,” W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006.


      

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