Sunrise Cemetery lies just beyond
a window-walled reading room.
Inside, books pressed erect in rows;
outside, avenues of aging stones.
Thick markers stand like granite
tomes lined up on the grass
a surname etched across each cover
all pages tightly closed.
A nameless raw clay patch is nearly
hidden by mourners’ best intentions:
heaps of fading gladiolas, butterflies
on banners, brand-new plastic roses.
Local genealogists go back and forth
documenting lives of relatives preserved
in county histories and brittle newsprint
or carved on shaded tombs and obelisks.
Retired businessmen, some still showing up
in Oxford shirts lightly starched, read the Times
at window tables, silhouetted by the glare
bleaching weathered marble slabs nearby.
A toddler entering the stacks breaks away
shrieking her delight at running through
the silence the same way she would sing
ambling down a quiet aisle outside.
Recent work by Raymond Byrnes has been read on The Writer's Almanac and published in Third Wednesday, Shot Glass Journal, The Raw Art Review, Typishly, Split Rock Review, and numerous other journals. For many years he managed communications for the US Geological Survey/NASA Landsat Satellite Program. He lives in Virginia.