Bird Migration

Can you hear them?
Behind still-green leaves
of old trees,
coming on ancient v’s,
over wide quiet lakes
over steaming cities
and licorice asphalt
and the Blue Ridge like
great stalagmites, from the sky.

Over early frosted cotton and
rotten tomatoes, clinging but
not eaten—
Curving and descending,
until the trees are full
and brimming.

Can you hear them?
Growing cold and leaving,
but most of all,
their singing.


“For a week last September migrating red-winged blackbirds were feeding heavily down by the creek at the back of the house. One day I went out to investigate the racket; I walked up to a tree, an Osage orange, and a hundred birds flew away. They simply materialized out of the tree. I saw a tree, then a whisk of color, then a tree again. I walked close and another hundred blackbirds took flight. Not a branch, not a twig budged: the birds were apparently weightless as well as invisible. Or it was as if the leaves of the Osage orange had been freed from a spell in the form of red-winged blackbirds; they flew from the tree, caught my eye in the sky, and vanished. When I looked again at the tree the leaves had reassembled as if nothing had happened. Finally I walked directly to the trunk of the tree and a final hundred, the real diehards, appeared, spread, and vanished. How could so many hide in the tree without my seeing them? The Osage orange, unruffled, looked just as it had looked from the house, when three hundred red-winged blackbirds cried from its crown.”
from Annie Dillard’s essay “Seeing”

I wrote the poem after hearing hundreds of birds I couldn’t see sing from the oaks in our backyard. The same week I read Dillard’s essay and, not surprisingly, she explains the experience best.

What are you noticing as the season changes?






  1. Lovely, friend. This sounds like something Yeats would have written, or Tolkien — I can hear his voice when I read it. The “ancient v’s” image is particularly stirring.

    As the seasons change I’m noticing a stillness in the air that wasn’t there a month ago. Something barely perceptible but unique to early autumn.

  2. Karen Woods

    Thanks Jane, this is beautiful. I can hear the birds as I read. Love ya, Karen


    Very nice Champ, love you, Dad

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