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I Have a Time Machine

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But unfortunately it can only travel into the future
at a rate of one second per second,
 
which seems slow to the physicists and to the grant
committees and even to me.
 
But I manage to get there, time after time, to the next
moment and to the next.
 
Thing is, I can't turn it off. I keep zipping ahead—
well not zipping—And if I try
 
to get out of this time machine, open the latch,
I'll fall into space, unconscious,
 
then desiccated! And I'm pretty sure I'm afraid of that.
So I stay inside.
 
There's a window, though. It shows the past.
It's like a television or fish tank.
 
But it's never live; it's always over. The fish swim
in backward circles.
 
Sometimes it's like a rearview mirror, another chance
to see what I'm leaving behind,
 
and sometimes like blackout, all that time
wasted sleeping.
 
Myself age eight, whole head burnt with embarrassment
at having lost a library book.
 
Myself lurking in a candled corner expecting
to be found charming.
 
Me holding a rose though I want to put it down
so I can smoke.
 
Me exploding at my mother who explodes at me
because the explosion
 
of some dark star all the way back struck hard
at mother's mother's mother.
 
I turn away from the window, anticipating a blow.
I thought I'd find myself
 
an old woman by now, traveling so light in time.
But I haven't gotten far at all.
 
Strange not to be able to pick up the pace as I'd like;
the past is so horribly fast.

Brenda Shaughnessy, "I Have a Time Machine" from So Much Synth. Copyright © 2016 by Brenda Shaughnessy.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.
Source: So Much Synth (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
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I Have a Time Machine

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