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Words are Birds

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words
are birds
that arrive
with books
and spring

they
love
clouds
the wind
and trees

some words
are messengers
that come
from far away
from distant lands

for them
there are
no borders
only stars
moon and sun

some words
are familiar
like canaries
others are exotic
like the quetzal bird

some can stand
the cold
others migrate
with the sun
to the south

some words
die
caged—
they're difficult
to translate

and others
build nests
have chicks
warm them
feed them

teach them
how to fly
and one day
they go away
in flocks

the letters
on this page
are the prints
they leave
by the sea

Francisco X. Alarcon, "Words are Birds" from Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Francisco X. Alarcon.  Reprinted by permission of Lee & Low Books.
Source: Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems (Lee & Low Books, 1997)
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Words are Birds

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  • A prolific writer for adults and children, Francisco X. Alarcón was born in California and grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. Alarcón returned to the United States to attend California State University at Long Beach, and he earned his MA from Stanford University. His collections of poetry for adults include Body in Flames/Cuerpo en llamas (1990); De amor oscuro/Of Dark Love (1991); Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (1992), winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems (2002); Ce Uno One: Poemas para el Nuevo Sol/Poems for the New Sun (2010); Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems/Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas (2014); and Canto hondo/Deep Song (2015). 
     
    Latino and gay identity, mythology, the Nahuatl language, Mesoamerican history, and American culture are all portrayed in Alarcón’s writing. On a Fulbright fellowship to Mexico City in 1982,...

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