How to Build a Time Machine
October 14, 2014
Start with two-by-fours and bolts.
Fashion a rectangle. Add crossbeams.
Then attach four posts sticking up
like the frame of an old-fashioned bed.
You'll need another pair of hands
to invert it, a wobbly table
higher than you are tall.
Lattices brace, giving the illusion
of wall. Hurl cornstalk javelins
onto the sketch of a roof. Thread
strands of light around the rafters,
golden garlands between the corn.
Hang variegated gourds beside
whatever shiny art or gadgetry
appeals to the five-year-old eye.
When the last paperclip is hooked
you're ready to step inside.
Wave palm fronds until they clack,
thumb the etrog and breathe deep.
Notice the sky change.
There's no controlling
where it will take you: to last year?
To next year? To the year when illness
revealed the fragility of your veins?
Or maybe to the forty years' wandering,
smoky cookfires and bleating goats,
nights beneath the tender curl
of God's sheltering embrace.
When you re-enter your old house again
don't be surprised if the ceiling
seems too plain. The side effects
are temporary. At week's end
pack the holy components
back in the Rubbermaid ark. Return it
to the basement. Unscrew the walls
and lean them against the garage
where they'll linger, inanimate
logs waiting to be lashed together again
into the raft which will ferry you
across next year's unknown seas.
I found myself wanting to write a poem but casting-about for inspiration. So I turned to the list of poetry prompts which Luisa Igloria shared last National Poetry Writing Month, and chose the one for the 13th day of that month: Write a poem which incorporates a set of instructions on how to get somewhere specific, and then on returning or coming back. The "somewhere specific" wound up being more a state of mind than a literal place, and I suspect the poem will become much shorter in revision at some point, but for now, I'm pleased with it.