By: 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.