There is a long skein of Canada geese in the October sky,
looking like outstretched fingers in a victory sign.
They honk as they fly south, flapping beneath evening clouds,
behavior that has been scripted since they emerged from their eggs.
And somehow they mysteriously mate for life, while flying
distances I can only dream of, watching from the ground.
Every year I hear this sound, and I wonder if this
might be the last time I will hear them pass.
One of these years it will be the last, the final time I see and
hear the fall migration of these beautiful birds we call geese.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why, every fall,
they bring a haunting with their yearly farewell.
Now it’s fall once more, the nights have grown cold,
and the geese are flying south again, as they always do.
And as always, I’m left with a mix of sadness and joy,
brought home once more by their flying and their sound.
But maybe it’s because I once lived in the South,
the place where the geese go in the fall to get warm.
As a young man I lived a decade in Tennessee, and walked in fields
in October much like the Jersey fields these geese fly over now.
Now a man about to turn sixty, I look at the sky, think of those
Tennessee days long ago, and wish I could fly there now.
But even the geese can’t fly back into the past, no matter how far they
go, but their sight and sound can bring it here, if only for a moment.
So briefly a man with a bald head and gray beard looks to the sky,
while his southern past, and northern present, join as the geese pass.
Steve Newton spent part of his youth in Tennessee and
now teaches English at a state university in New Jersey.