Steven Breyak
Alternate Endings

Surprise Party

Nothing was ready. It was a dinner party
and everybody showed an hour early. When we
heard the doorbell there were too many directions
to run, so many last chapters to read, so many friends
we had forgotten to call as we balanced our checkbooks.

The dishes will always be half finished, the shattered
wineglass will oddly still matter. And what we've said
in the tensions of our preparation, will never be mended.

Sweeps Week

The world really couldn't have chosen a worse time to end.
I was waiting for a package from Amazon and savoring the last
chapter of a really great novel. I wanted to make love a few more times
or at least have some more sex. And to think, just next week: season finales.
No one will get to see those big episodes. A few more months and some of them
could have won an award or two, but no. It was just bad timing really.
So anti-climatic. I mean, WW2 would have made a way better ending.
There's no big explosion here, no reconciled love,
just a rough, empty surface: a closed book on fire.

And the Package

The package I forgot to take to the post office yesterday,
is all I can think of. It will never be returned. The charges
will not be reimbursed. Not to mention my bills.
Credit ratings will out live us all. No one will know
just how unprofitable my demise.

If I was only certain it would come to this,
or just more certain, I'd like to think
I would have spent more time reconciling
some of my wrongs, even if my cell-
phone no longer worked, even if only
to open that package and touch again
what I did not want.

After the Holocaust

Our retirement plans, our calendars, our ages: so much data
our only legacy. Like the crystal ball, the intricate magic
of our TVs and computers will be forgotten. Our everything
borne into the ether will decay behind a grey veil.

We were all just living when it stopped.
Nothing was finished but ourselves.

Hiding in the Darkened Room

Like all things fatal
it was meant to be a surprise,
a secret we were all in on.
The gasp that was our final breath:
more etiquette than anything else.

The next morning had the sweet acrid smell
of remembered drinks and inhibitions forgotten.
Alarm clocks announced the day and sang
through into the night. Televisions,
those sleepless guests, spoke to each other
until there was nothing left to say;
flickered and faded like neutron stars,
like helpless children
who wail till they can only sleep.