Motion; March; Uncle Bill from Minnesota

Raymond Byrnes



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


inhaling ground-thaw

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.