When thearrived

I heard the haunting

cries long before

I ever saw them in flight.

Year after year.

When they arrived

a great joy flooded my

body and I was 

lifted to the sky –

Joining in the celebration.

When they arrived

 Some stayed

for winter, and

I was filled with a strange

Peace I could not define.

When they arrived

some slept nearby

rising up

from grain fields,

a drop of blood

 on their heads,

 long graceful necks, 

black legs dangling,


outstretched wings

lifting sturdy bodies

skyward, startling

riffles and river waters

that kept them

 safe from coyotes

at night.

When they arrived

a collective call

and something else

I could not name

tore open my heart.

When they arrived

that last year

with my life

gone so strange

and cold,


I had lost direction,

 Yet found kinship

among them.

After they arrived

I was always listening.

Each predawn


torturous winds

 could steal

their cries

I walked into

   ‘first light’

arching my neck


to glimpse

 sacred flight.

After they arrived

 I loved

them with eyes

stung with tears

lacking understanding

but feeling

a holy force 

of such monumental proportion

it severed all thought.

My body sang.

Only presence mattered.

On and on the dance went

until one day

 in early February

 one crane

 climbed into

the sky 





Others followed

and all that month

they orchestrated a

 communal gathering.

Once sky born

they soared north

the moment the sun

rose high enough

to warm them. 

“Don’t go” a lost child cried.

We loved them so.

 Bereft, I was left  

not knowing what

was lost

beyond the Sacred Voices

  that haunted the sky.

 My skin shrunk

tighter and tighter

against fragile bone.

I could barely stand

the empty blue dome,

a moon that never slept.

I followed

them in my mind.

They headed north,

east and west 

Joyous reunions

as migrating kin

met at dusk –

at a fly down.

Resting ,

  rising at dawn

 to sail through the clouds.

Stormy weather

 was always a threat –

gunmen too. 

 Some flights

took them as far as Siberia

 to find

  nesting areas 

hidden in cattails.

Once relaxed and fed

 maybe the two

who mated for life

 could raise one

chick to adolescence.

Last year only three

small groups


The season

was short.

Yet they filled the sky

with their calls

 as I walked into

 gray, scarlet, bruised

purple, blue dawn 

blessed by a Grace

that preceded sight

of the small community

 brrrring overhead.

 I wondered then

 who they really were.

These ancient ones 

  who soared far east 

to reach the

 northeastern tip

of the country

I come from…

For twenty springs 

 small groups 

touched down

in secret,

danced and bred, 

spent several months –

most of the year

in the lush green mountain


Almost no one knew.

Last year

when they left winter behind

I followed. 

Voices rose up

from the ground

to guide me.  

I listened for messages

beneath sound.

Finding direction at last

I surrendered,

fearing nothing more

than not being able

to join them

in the North Country

that called me Home.

3 thoughts on “Migration

    1. Oh Tom, this is the dark side – these birds are shot even in the so called preserves like the Bosque del Apache… this reveals the genuine nature of the fish and wildlife folks in virtually every state. As of now they can also be killed in most states that they migrate through on their journey north/ west/east. Hunters are perched on all the flyways. I have written so much about cranes on my blog because they are such amazing birds and so ancient – there are no leaders among them – they live and breathe as a community and when they meet their kin at resting places as they journey as far north and west as Siberia there are great celebrations…. oh we could learn so much from birds like this…. here in Maine, no one knew they were even nesting here until a few years ago. Apparently a bunch split off from the eastern flyway. Lucky for me one of these places is less than an hour away – so I get to see them. Have you seen them? If you haven’t you must…. go visit one of the preserves – the sight, sound, behavior of these birds will change you. I don’t know where you live but there must be a preserve somewhere because you live in the east – or maybe I just assumed that.


      1. There are white Egrets and Great Blue Herons in our area, of northeastern Illinois, but Sandhill cranes are not seen often. Such large birds are indeed very beautiful and majestic. I am very fond of Ravens and Crows, due to their very high intelligence. There are far fewer crows in our area due to West Nile virus having taking its toll; it is very lethal to this group of birds.
        I need to take my binoculars out more often! 🙂


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