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Winter 2003, Volume 20.2

Poetry

 

Edward ByrnePicture of Edward Byrne.


Edward Byrne is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Tidal Air (Pecan Grove Press, 2002). His poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals, including American Literary Review, American Poetry Review, The American Scholar, Mid-American Review, Missouri Review, and Quarterly West. He is Professor of English at Valparaiso University, where he also serves as editor of Valparaiso Poetry Review.

 

Constellations Over Colorado

          I
Stars sharpen, again outlining the great shapes
          of those constellations marking that far

sky yet resting what little weight it may offer
          upon the slopes of this dark landscape.

Just above a cluster of aspen along one ridge,
          tonight's gibbous moon is now rising

like an ivory fan spread open as a last resort,
          a way to wave away this summer heat.

When a brief river breeze presses at the edges
          of those trees all around this redwood

deck, their leaves seem to whisper, as if trying
          to find a word or two of consolation.

An endless murmur carries on with its rumors
          in the gully beneath me where a current

moves past, staggers through those small stones
          sifting this river for thousands of years.

          II
Sometimes I wonder if I might try to decipher
          their language, but to do so would be

futile, almost as useless as searching for advice
          under astrological signs of a horoscope.

The candlelight flickers on this wooden table,
          even appears to give a knowing wink,

as I now look out at the back of that black forest
          across those slow-flowing waters below.

Just after sunset, when you had left, the horizon
          was sprinkled with that spray of daylight

that always lingers a little longer, as if it is still
          hoping to hold on to what's already lost.

Later, by midnight, even though everything may
          lie under the artful display of that sky

petaled with patterned starlight, I am waiting
          for some other sign that will not come.

          III
At a time like this, when every bit of evidence
          we need of perfection locks into position

and I see the ordered world before me, I know
          there is no use seeking any alternative.

I watch the moon and stars, each in its charted
          spot, as that lunar light reaches through

treetops, washes over the large logs and dark
          stumps fit into this lodge's architecture.

Beside one another, Cassiopeia and Andromeda
          keep me company even in their distance,

and when that flame wavers a last time, I believe
          I might find relief writing these final lines.

But I know tomorrow, when that first pale flag
          of sunrise unfurls, the night will surrender

its tight grip over this valley, and even those few
          far figures of stars also will wander away.

 

Leaving Lisbon After a Lengthy Visit

          I
When we departed, the ocean was
          as dark as wine, stars petalled the sky.

Sailing for home, our ship's wake
          trailed into the distance like a long

forefinger pointing back at that failing
          image of the Portuguese coast slowly

fading from view, as if by its indicating
          the way from which we had just come

we would somehow be urged to hasten
          our return to this dwindling peninsula.

          II
Beyond the bow, toward the Azores,
          blackness was unending: nothing

but an unseen mist of sea air blowing
          cold over everyone on deck, concealing

the course ahead, as though the world
          we once knew now no longer existed—

perhaps had disappeared into the depths
          of those rolling waters roiling below

the hull—and it was hidden forever
          in thickening fog drifting before us.

 

Mountain Meadow:
Night Climb After a Storm

Now I limp on, knowing
the moon strides behind me….
                      —James Wright

          I
Following the fine line of a flashlight
          beam, we find ourselves alone, groping

our way into this opening among wooded
          crests, and all around us suddenly seems

to awaken when that nightly slide of stars
          again starts shining against the dark sky.

          II
As the moon, too, now moves once more
          past its black background like some large

lantern carried across a broad field, brightens
          the entire expanse of meadow before us,

we're newly reminded how easy it would be
          to forget everything we have left behind.

 

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