Edward Byrne


The autumn air still fills with a bittersweet
scent of burning leaves from a neighbor’s yard.

A thick line of smoke rises over the thinning
trees, climbing high alongside migrating geese,

though curving slightly in whatever warming
breeze we might feel coming from among gusts

blowing just above a stubble of southern fields
and turning further toward the northern border

of this state, where even the lake water remains
unseasonably mild. Often, when I was young,

I wondered why my father sighed each time
he called such a brief reprieve from the cold fall

merely a magician’s trick, but today I catch
myself saying that old phrase much the same way

to my teenage son as we rake our lawn together,
both of us knowing this will not last very long.


Only three weeks before leaving Italy,
we had discovered that quaint old café,

an imitation of American dinner clubs
where someone told us we just might

find the kind of solo jazz saxophonist
who could hit those quick high notes

we had remembered hearing so often
back in the States. As music played,

a bluish gray haze of cigarette smoke
always hovered over the open piano

lid, and sipping a glass of white wine
one final time together that evening,

I felt as though the night might never
end. All around, small petaled heads

of long-stemmed roses bent, nodding
from tall crystal pitchers, the golden

blooms glowing like bright bulbs able
to illuminate every table in the room.


Though cold enough
for snow, I know bright sunshine

leaning across the lawn
and tilting through storm windows

of my enclosed porch
will warm the air trapped inside.

But here, choking smoke
rises slowly from a high pile of these

oak leaves gone gold
and brown nearly a month ago,

raked late in the season
by a neighbor with blistering fingers.

Farther off, large clouds
begin to drift in, each one shifting

with a growing wind.
By the time twilight slowly turns

to nightfall, that smoky haze
will dissipate in the starless dark,

even the sharp scent
of burning leaves will fade away.

Edward Byrne is a professor of American literature and creative writing in the English Department at Valparaiso University, where he serves as the editor of Valparaiso Poetry Review. His first full-length collection of poetry, Along the Dark Shore (BOA Editions), was a finalist for the Elliston Book Award.  A chapbook-length collection of poems contained in The Return to Black and White (Tidy-Up Press) was selected by Library Journal as among "The Best of the Small Press Publications."  Work in his third book of poems, Words Spoken, Words Unspoken (Chimney Hill Press), was awarded the Cape Rock Prize for Poetry in 1995.  His fourth book of poems, East of Omaha, was nominated for a Midland Authors Award in 1999.  His fifth collection of poems, Tidal Air, appeared from Pecan Grove Press in 2002.  A sixth book of poetry, Seeded Light, is forthcoming from Turning Point Books.  He has won a number of awards and fellowships, including an Academy of American Poets Award, the Donald G. Whiteside Award for Poetry, and a Utah Arts Council Award for Poetry.  His poems and articles of literary criticism also have been published in numerous literary journals or anthologies, including American Literary Review, American Scholar, Ascent, Crab Orchard Review, Greensboro Review, Missouri Review, North American Review, Quarterly West, Southern Humanities Review, and Southern Poetry Review.  In addition, he has written many film essays or movie reviews for newspapers and magazines.



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Liz Abrams-Morley

C.B. Anderson

E.C. Belli

Therese Broderick

Mary Buchinger

Edward Byrne

Jenn Blair Campbell

Norma Chapman

Antonia Clark

Robert Farnsworth

Roger Fogelman

James Grabill

Catherine Harnett

Marc Harshman

Michael F. Hogan

Kathryn Jacobs

Dan Johnson

Susan A. Katz

Judy Kronenfeld

Lyn Lifshin

Diane Lockward reviews Barbara Crooker.

Judith McCombs

Bettie Mikosinski

Mayuku Omeresanine

Scott Owens

Roger Pfingston

Les Prescott

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