November 26, 2006|By Ted Kooser

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 one about how it feels to witness the passing of another year. - Ted Kooser

"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.

Ted Kooser was U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06. Copyright 1988 by Linda Pastan. Reprinted from ?The Imperfect Paradise,? W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., by permission of the publisher.

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