The Birds

By Linda Pastan b. 1932 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. 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.

Source: The Imperfect Paradise (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1988)

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Poet Linda Pastan b. 1932

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Linda  Pastan

Biography

Poet Linda Pastan was raised in New York City but has lived for most of her life in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. In her senior year at Radcliffe College, Pastan won the Mademoiselle poetry prize (Sylvia Plath was the runner-up). Immediately following graduation, however, she decided to give up writing poetry in order to concentrate on raising her family. After ten years at home, her husband urged her to return . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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