In a soaking August haze, he slowly packs
the car so an evening breeze off Lake Superior
can comfort him twelve hundred miles away
where shiny bits of glass pierce an asphalt sky.

One clear morning, he will hike a shaded
forest path to a brook he waded once seeking
tiny wild trout — dazzling, dappled relics from
ten thousand years before the logging roads.

He will linger when he finds the bend where,
stiff from standing in the stream, he saw
incised in sand where he was about to step
a paw print broad as his outstretched fist.

Pausing in the stillness of clustered pines,
the tug of water through a dense wood flowing,
the silence along a pathway lately taken,
he tamped his startled pulse with gratitude.

He doesn’t pack his fly rod anymore or
binoculars or birding guides. He prefers
to perch on an ancient cedar stump and
listen for a story whispered in the leaves.

-Raymond Byrnes

Recent work by Raymond Byrnes has been read on The Writer’s Almanac, featured as Editors’ Choice in four journals, and published in Third Wednesday, Shot Glass Journal, Better Than Starbucks, Misfits, Typishly, and numerous other publications. For many years after leaving a tenured position teaching college English in the Midwest, he managed communications for the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Land Imaging Program. He lives in Virginia.