The night migrations

I woke up in the middle of the night and heard the wild geese overhead. Their cries seemed to go on and on. This is the time of year when hundreds of thousands of birds are migrating across the skies under the cover of darkness. The Berkshire fields may still be a sodden uniform beige, but everywhere around us life is stirring. The witch hazel has been in gaudy bloom for almost a month now. Daffodils and alliums are wriggling their green fingers up through the earth. Phoebes are building a nest under the eaves of the barn.  This morning, I noticed that the frog pond, covered in ice just a few days ago, had thawed.  The water was rippling — as though someone had tossed in a handful of pebbles. Looking closer, I saw half  a dozen small green frogs bobbing on the surface and serenading each other with their strange croaking songs.

Here’s a poem by Louse Glück who, among a lifetime of poetic achievements, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Like so much of her work, this seemingly simple meditation has the power and complexity of a Buddhist koan.

The Night Migrations
Louse Glück

This is the moment when you see again
the red berries of the mountain ash
and in the dark sky
the birds’ night migrations.

It grieves me to think
the dead won’t see them—
these things we depend on,
they disappear.

What will the soul do for solace then?
I tell myself maybe it won’t need
these pleasures anymore;
maybe just not being is simply enough,
hard as that is to imagine.

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12 Responses to The night migrations

  1. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    I had never read that poem. Spare and strong.

  2. Gwen Rhodes says:

    ohh Liza
    I think about this kind of thing all the time…I love this poem…thanks.

  3. Susan Fisher says:

    Spare and powerful is a mild understatement!

    • Liza says:

      Thanks, Susan. I wonder now if what I actually heard was the croaking of the frogs in the middle of the night rather than the wild geese. They sound oddly alike.

  4. Thedadede says:


  5. Emily Gyllenhaal says:

    I seem to prefer your hopeful and inspiring words, definitely needed as we wait and wait for spring. The poem is deep.

  6. Barry Littmann says:

    Barry Littmann, AWOTC,
    I guess that’s why its best to enjoy these pleasures while we are alive.

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