Motion; March; Uncle Bill from Minnesota
Once or twice a week, sometimes very late
a motion-activated bulb illuminates the patio.
Sometimes it’s a dogwood branch moving with
the wind, sometimes a local cat, but sometimes
when it’s clear beneath the distant pinprick stars
light flashes on when nothing seems to move.
Sometimes a glow arrives as in a dream
and wakefulness comes slow as moonlight
seeping through the downturned blinds,
but once alert he listens for a sliding step, a
chair lightly bumped or hardware in a lock.
Tonight he lifts a slat to see what’s there.
Two empty Adirondack chairs recline beneath
the bedroom window, a wrapped grey umbrella
stands quiet as a heron, the latticed-metal glider
hangs still with no passengers. Shadows softly
punctuate the edge of light but remain in place.
Other than his sleep, nothing seems disturbed.
Sometimes he dreams a silent figure stands
beside a sliding door. As he begins to dial a
whispered 911 the light blinks on and a man
with his father’s face looks up forming words
drowned out by the Mills Brothers recent hit
“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread….”
Three white clouds drift
in blue-glaze sky.
Laundry billows on a line.
An old man in a faded
flannel shirt stands by a
garden bed, hoe in hand
smells, hearing birdsong
rinse the morning air.
Retiring to his lawn chair to
contemplate his task would
provide a sunny hour of rest
but this is the day to spread
crumbling leaves, scoop in lime,
and stir ingredients of spring.
Uncle Bill from Minnesota
Uncle Bill from Minnesota told
of sometimes staying hunched
too long over rows of beets and
beans to pull a few more foxtail
shoots while flashing fireflies took
their seats in maple galleries and
a chorus of mosquitos hummed one
note then pricked his sweaty sleeves.
He spoke of playing hockey in the
cold, of remembering a town-team
game one night at ten below
followed by a steady burn inside
a fingertip and said part of him
remained forever numb, unresponsive
as his sluggish tongue the night
Aunt Mary packed and left.
He recalled most often blizzard winds,
one so fierce he failed to give the
kids a sheltered sniff of arctic air
because he could not force the storm
door open. He said the morning after,
he stepped out back and found, like
brittle ornaments fallen from a cedar
tree, half a dozen frozen sparrows.
Recent poems by Raymond Byrnes have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Shot Glass Journal, All Roads Will Lead You Home, Panoply, Typishly, and Waters Deep: A Great Lakes Poetry Anthology. He lives in Leesburg, Virginia.