TAR
EDWARD BYRNE has had five collections of poetry published: Along the Dark Shore
(BOA Editions) which was chosen a finalist for the Elliston Book Award; The Return to Black and White (Tidy-Up Press), Words Spoken, Words Unspoken (Chimney Hill Press), East of Omaha and Tidal Air, (both by Pecan Grove Press).  His poetry has appeared in numerous journals such as: American Literary Review, American Poetry Review, American Scholar, Black Warrior Review, Carolina Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Greensboro Review, The Literary Review, Mid-American Review, Missouri Review, North American Review, Oxford Magazine, Quarterly West, Southern Humanities Review, and Southern Poetry Review,as well as a number of anthologies, including The Liar's Craft  (Doubleday/Anchor Press).  He is a professor of American literature and creative writing and directs the visiting writers program in the English Department at Valparaiso University, where he also serves as the editor of Valparaiso Poetry Review.
RAFTING THE RAPIDS


    I

In August, under noonday haze, the valley fills
    with small fields of wildflowers.  The morning

mist has long since risen above this basin
    and begun to wind its way uphill, fog still

hugging high fire roads that twist toward stark
    ridge tops.  Even early lines of dark clouds

that appeared at dawn have finally cleared.
    Now, as we follow the river's scrawled signature

across this country, floating rafts past hillsides
    spattered with patches of spruce, pine, and fir,

we can see how these steep slopes quickly climb
    right into the open sky, its bright horizon clipped

only by an uneven outline of rim rock.  Here,
    where the current's flow slows to a lazy pace

and tawny silt stains the river until detailed
    beneath the glare of midday blaze it takes on

the color of tea, we wade cool waters still chilled
    by late winter's snow as we drift downstream.


    II

We await the rumble of rapids before heading
    for a few watershed buttes just beyond the next

bend where the faster whitewater is running. 
    As the afternoon sun starts its descent, we move

gently toward a narrow sluice, shoot through
    a sudden drop, then surge over those bedrock holes

and rolling wave trains swollen with the seasonal
    release flushed from an upriver dam.   By sunset,

we have slipped past the last falls of the gorge:
    all that's left is one short stretch of mild ripples

and a small section of beach for landing.  Tonight,
    we will lie beside this constant sweep of current

that continues as persistently into the future as life
    itself, and fall asleep beneath a flood of darkness

marred merely by sparks embarking from some
    faraway stars scattered like moments of memories

we'd hoped to hold on to, those shattered fragments
    solely able to offer light from times already passed.


Edward Byrne




THE MOTORCYCLIST SEEKS REFUGE


    I

In the temporary shelter of that revivalist's
    roadside tent extended under a threatening

sky--the poles swaying and ropes already
    straining as the canvas above begins to stretch

or billow in this lifting wind--he finds himself
    waiting for the rain storm, caught with hundreds

of others, self-proclaimed lost souls calling out
    all their holy grievances, almost a whole county's

devout men, women, and children now gathered
    in front of a modest platform where scaffolding

supports that mere square of flooring, plain
    wooden planks, eye-high and serving as a stage.


   II

Yet waiting for the rain to end, thoughts
    of his past cause him to pause, feeling not

only alone among this congregation, but left
    emotionless, as he listens to the old preacher

and his penitents, to those abstractions--
    aphorisms about sin, guilt, and forgiveness--

nothing lasting nor more than empty words
    attached to confessions or promises he knows

are sure to be broken, though spoken
    with conviction and in the steady repetition

of those childhood rosary prayers he still
    remembers once having offered in penance.


Edward Byrne