When the Cranes Fly

May 04, 2016

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Early each spring, Nebraska hosts, along a section of the Platte River, several hundred thousand sandhill cranes. It's something I wish everyone could see. Don Welch, one of the state's finest poets, lives under the flyway, and here's his take on the migration. His most recent book is Gnomes, (Stephen F. Austin State Univ. Press, 2013).

With Spring In Our Flesh

With spring in our flesh
the cranes come back,
funneling into a north
cold and black.

And we go out to them,
go out into the town,
welcoming them with shouts,
asking them down.

The winter flies away
when the cranes cross.
It falls into the north,
homeward and lost.

Let no one call it back
when the cranes fly,
silver birds, red-capped,
down the long sky.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Don Welch, “With Spring In Our Flesh.” Poem reprinted by permission of Don Welch. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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  1. If I have the right bird, our coastal cranes teach me about taking my time...slow and easy...just hanging out...I think the egrets do that too....

  2. Rita--Yes! What a great lesson to learn from the cranes (and egrets).

  3. During our 25th anniversary trip to Tucson we went out to the desert and watched thousands of sand hill cranes land southeast of town for several hours. The ground became gray with birds all shoved together. It was a very exciting experience! I guess they go from Nebraska to Arizona!

  4. Wow, Dan, that would be an amazing sight to see. We see the sandhill cranes often, but not in such numbers all together.