“Beyond Recall” by Sharon Bryan

Nothing matters
to the dead,
that’s what’s so hard

for the rest of us
to take in-
their complete indifference

to our enticements,
our attempts to get in touch-
they aren’t observing us

from a discreet distance.
they aren’t listening
to a word we say-

you know that,
but you don’t believe it,
even deep in a cave

you don’t believe
in total darkness,
you keep waiting

for your eyes to adjust
and reveal your hand
in front of your face-

so how long a silence
will it take to convince us
that we’re the ones

who no longer exist,
as far as X is concerned,
and Y, that they’ve forgotten

every little thing
they knew about us,
what we told them

and what we didn’t
have to, even our names
mean nothing to them

now-our throats ache
with all we might have said
the next time we saw them.

– Sharon Bryan, from Flying Blind

“The Underworld” by Sharon Bryan

When I lived in the foothills
birds flocked to the feeder:

house finches, goldfinches,
skyblue lazuli buntings,

impeccably dressed chickadees,
sparrows in work clothes, even

hummingbirds fastforwarding
through the trees. Some of them

disappeared after a week, headed
north, I thought, with the sun.

But the first cool day
they were back, then gone,

then back, more reliable
than weathermen, and I realized

they hadn’t gone north at all,
but up the mountain, as invisible

to me as if they had flown
a thousand miles, yet in reality

just out of sight, out of reach—
maybe at the end of our lives

the world lifts that slightly
away from us, and returns once

or twice to see if we’ve refilled
the feeder, if we still remember it,

or if we’ve taken leave
of our senses altogether.

“The Underworld” by Sharon Bryan, from Sharp Stars. © BOA Editions, 2009.