A homemade rig based on a Renaissance sketch
and certain files I stole from Copenhagen.
A quantum-oscillating, bat-winged wagon
fully equipped for four-dimensional flight:
twin engines, shiny knobs, logbook, gearbox,
a small receptacle in which to retch,
shields to prevent a temporal paradox
(the past may not be touched; Dickens was right)…
Hand on the gearshift, I reviewed my reasons.
To see my private history, of course
(but not the future, even if I’d dared:
the proper mechanism’s not yet built);
to retrace fragrant memories to their source,
fix names and dates to my free-floating guilt…
To go back further, too, and not be spared.
To see. To be, in some sense, “for all seasons.”
I pressed a button. Eminent guests, assembled
in my home laboratory, cheered. Time trembled.
My audience must have seen me disappear
and rematerialize the following moment.
They backed away, too scandalized to comment,
as the hatch rose and, in a fog of stench,
my eyes fixed forward and my clothing stale,
I staggered past them (shoes oozing a trail)
and stretched out flat across a window-bench,
where I lay frozen for what seemed a year.
My doctor spoke. I bolted up in terror.
I managed presently to understand him.
“Where did you set the dial?” he cried. “Which era?”
“Childhood,” I whispered. “Then the war. Then Random.”
He scratched his beard. “You didn’t interact…?”
I waved a weary hand: “It’s all intact.”
“I see.” He seemed relieved. “What happened, then?”
I chuckled tonelessly. “To whom? And when?
All of it happened. I just watched it pass
in little segments—shards—never intruded—
caused nothing, changed nothing—myself included—
was nothing—sat there—lurked behind the glass,
you know: the perfect tourist, perfect phantom—
watching. Sometimes again. Ha ha: ‘again.’”
“I see.” The doctor coughed. He touched my brow
and packed his bag. “Well, it’s all over now.”
There the rig stood against the brightening wall:
twin engines dead, wings pitifully sprained,
shields operational but faded, drained
of tint, as if they knew the things they’d seen.
The logbook entries were a childish scrawl.
The puke container was the whole machine.