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

Share this

The Latest from Landis

Mar 18, 2024

Landis Signature Spring Plant Book and Bake Sale

You don’t want to miss this! read more

Mar 18, 2024

Landis Houseplant Swap!

If you’re a houseplant lover, this event is for you! read more

Mar 11, 2024 | Anita Sanchez

A Shallow Dive into Vernal Pools

Spring is the time for water. First the icicles start to drip. Then the streams... read more

Mar 11, 2024 | Sam McClary

Never Underestimate Nature: Rejuvenating Old Apple Trees

While driving along country roads in the autumn, watching the falling leaves – I suddenly... read more

Mar 11, 2024 | Shayne Mitchell

News and Muse from the Bluebird Trail

I think it is safe to say that the Eastern bluebird is the favorite bird... read more

Mar 11, 2024 | Sue Tricario

Landis Membership Away from Home

A membership at the Landis Arboretum is your passport to over 360 public gardens and... read more

News Archive