One Poem

Edward Byrne


          For my son


Even now as he wakes to see me, knows
          I have been watching him sleep, he still keeps

close to his side that thick book he'd hidden
          all night long under his covers, with one nearly

fisted hand holding it so tightly that I might
          not be able to read the raised and finely-printed

white letters extending like a small animal's
          vertebrae along the length of its spine, spelling

out those dry technical title words spread
          across another of his mother's medical texts.


Each night he reads what he can understand
          now about how the body's outward appearance

often deceives, warnings of its weakness
          remaining unseen like those few signs of life lost

beneath the little lake outside his bedroom
          window, its still water frozen and snowed over

ever since winter's first frost. He seems
          to be seeking some sense of security that might

arise from learning answers to unformed
          sentences, the questions he is yet unable to ask.


The graphics picture all kinds of diseases,
          and I wonder if these images feed his dreams,

frighten him late at night after the set timer
          turns off his dresser light or those weak final

beams of moonlight—drifting down cold
          air currents, sifting through the now bare trees,

falling among the house's eaves, filtering
          between curtains in his window—fade away,

whether he believes even shrouds of darkness
          cannot erase what he's seen, cannot ease any pain.

Edward Byrne

Edward Byrne has had five collections of poetry published, most recently Tidal Air published by Pecan Grove Press. His poetry also has appeared in numerous journals, including American Poetry Review, American Scholar, The Literary Review, Missouri Review, North American Review, Quarterly West, and Southern Humanities Review. In addition, his literary criticism has been published in various journals and book collections, including Mark Strand, edited by Harold Bloom, and A Condition of the Spirit: The Life and Work of Larry Levis, edited by Christopher Buckley and Alexander Long. Byrne is a professor of American literature and creative writing in the English Department at Valparaiso University, where he also serves as editor of Valparaiso Poetry Review.