Raymond Byrnes

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.