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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