Barn Swallows

By Fred Lape, founder of the George Landis Arboretum

In this poem, Arbore­tum founder Fred Lape calls our atten­tion to the com­mon­place” mir­a­cle of spring, as wel­come and as fleet­ing as the barn swal­lows’ return.

When April brings swal­lows the season’s turned;

they mark the thaw­ing of the air; it’s open now

for them to cut cir­cles and curve twittering

down out of space and slide under the door beams

like weav­ing shut­tles slid­ing through the warp.

Theirs are the upper spaces of the mows.

They glue their nests to the joists and roofboards,

and guard their young brave­ly into the fledg­ling season.

All day their talk­ing sounds like leap­ing water;

only the dark night silences their voices

and stills their wings a few hours until dawn.

But like the wind of youth that dies so soon,

they wear the sum­mer out before it’s done.

Mid-August they gath­er their young in rows

on the light wires like strings of buttons

stretched across the yard. Maybe a week they linger,

talk­ing but rest­less with their inner urge.

Then a clear morn­ing comes and they are gone.

Only the home­ly spar­rows chirp inside the barn,

and like the limbs of trees and leaves fallen, 

the vacant air lanes stretch out to the sun.

– Fred Lape

Spring 2023

Volume 41 , Number 1

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