Conundrum
by
Richard Fein

It's not that you can kill your grandfather,
or worse marry your mother,
or father if you're a time-traveling daughter.
It's not that you might move a chair that trips the heroic assassin of El Presidente for Life,
before that maniacal dictator pushes the big red button
making what never happened a turning point of world history.

The real problem is that it takes time to go back in time,
like running down an up escalator,
your return is always relatively delayed.
You never get to replace that moment of stuttering incoherence
with that bon mot you've rehearsed over and over,
so once more your true love
walks out of your life and into your regrets.
And at the track, the betting window again slams shut on prescient you
just as you're about to make that sure bet on a thousand-to-one horse.
Behold another lifetime of green-eyed watching as the winners cash in.

And take the escalator up? To where?
Do Newton's or Einstein's laws apply?
If Einstein is king you might get to exactly where or when you want to be,
if you only knew what's on the top floors.
But if Newton rules then when you run up the escalator,
the velocities of your feet and rising stairs will combine
to put you ahead of your own future.
Or is there some rule of fate
condemning forward-looking travelers 
to race up to the roof then over it,
falling back to when and where
they stood penniless mumbling to their soon-to-be-lost loves?

 

 


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