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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Night Climb After a Storm
Now I limp on, knowing
the moon strides behind me….
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.
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.