Rod Jellema

Washington Migrants

DC Places Issue
Volume 7:3, Summer 2006

Washington Migrants

Birds obeying migration maps etched in their brains
never revise their interstate routes.
Some of them still stop off in Washington, DC.

As the lights of the Pentagon probe this autumn dusk,
a peaceful V-sign of Canada geese lower their landing gear,
slip on the oily Potomac, break rank and huddle

among the power boats. Wings of jets beat the air, taking turns
for the landing—pterodactyls circling the filled-in swamps
under National Airport. There is a great wild honking

of traffic on the bridges—
the daily homing of migrants with headlights dimmed
who loop and bank by instinct along the broken white lines.


Rod Jellema is Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland, where he was the founding director of the Creative Writing Program. He is the author of five books of poems, most recently Incarnality: The Collected Poems (Eerdmans, 2010). He met and studied the language of his forbears by editing and translating two Frisian-English bilingual books, The Sound that Remains (Eerdmans, 1990), and Country Fair (Eerdmans, 1985). He is the only American to have been awarded Fryslân's highest literary award, the Pieter Jelles Prize. Jellema has been twice awarded writer's fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. To read more by this author: Audio Issue, Memorial Issue, Jellema on Ezra Pound, Five Poems, Volume 3:1, Winter 2002