Poetry from David Kopaska-Merkel and Kendall Evans

The Tip of Time’s Arrow

Time travel proved necessary
If we wanted to meet other civilizations
Among the stars
Everywhere our ships landed 
Goldilocks worlds, gas giants, 
Or sunburned cinders
Ruins dotted the landscape
Sucked dry of metals and useful minerals
Intelligent entities everywhere 
Had crashed their ecologies and perished—
Their technological prowess
Not enough, never enough
To compensate for their behaviors.

Time travel proved possible
In the mid-twenty-fourth century
When the physicist Krisha Dalal
Learned to point time’s arrow both ways
Her equations unarguable
A crew of select humans and one AI
Was sent into the past.

Crowded time vehicle
Humans: eager 
AI cool in its rack of superfast processors
We set sail for the Devonian, a test run
Early plants, insects, amphibians
But no large terrestrial predators 
(The sea a frightful tale of teeth and armor)
The ride was silent, uneventful
The doors opened upon a dusty plain
A hovering pall of dust.

Our first dire discovery:
The air, unbreathable—
Like inhaling a lungful of nothing--
Though evidence and theory 
Suggested the Devonian air
Would sustain us.

Fortunately mission control
Had planned for such contingencies:
We have vacuum suits
Our vehicle’s mini-airlock
Snug for one standing man.

Four of us set forth 
Three humans and the AI’s avatar
Nearby, lycophytes and ferns 
Cluster along a stream
Motionless, as if no wind 
Has ever breathed across this land.

Primitive flying insects hover in midair
As if captured in invisible amber
Their wings do not blur 
Nor move at all; they hang 
Motionless above the stream
Its surface dimpled 
As if with the reticulations of water flowing
And yet this surface is static
Still as a stagnant pond.

We move on
Keeping our vehicle in view--
The world like a vast art installation
We move thru it, observing,
Yet without interacting.

Are we trapped in one frozen instant
Of past time?  After our excursion
We discuss possibilities 
A test:
I try to pick a single leaf—and fail
The AI directs a robot
To try, with the same result

This world we cannot change
And we’ll never reach the date
We’re to be plucked from time
Reeled back to the future.

Will the engineers who sent us
Deduce our fate
Find us before we starve
Locate this exact nanosecond 
Where we are stranded?
Or will their rescue attempts
Be a few frozen instants away?
Along with the AI,
We wait and we pray.

David C. Kopaska-Merkel won the 2006 Rhysling award (long poem, written with Kendall Evans), and edits Dreams & Nightmares magazine (since 1986). His poems have been published in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, and more than 200 other venues. Some Disassembly Required, a collection of dark poetry, was published in 2022. @DavidKMresists on CS. Blog: https://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/

More than two hundred poems by Kendall Evans, including a number of collaborations with David C. Kopaska-Merkel, have appeared in various SF/fantasy/horror magazines, chapbooks and anthologies. He and David also collaborated on "The Tin Men," which received the SFPA 2006 Rhysling Award for best science fiction poem written in 2005 (long poem category). His short stories have also received recognition, including two honorable mentions in THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR. His novelette "Don Huavaca's Dia de los Muertos" appeared in the anthology BARE BONE #6.

One thought on “Poetry from David Kopaska-Merkel and Kendall Evans

  1. I like this idea of the traveller’s being stuck in an instantaneous time bubble like amber.It raises questions about how time works at least in the reversed direction. I like the concept that time travel is not a flow but an instant. A great read for those who know about the arrow of time concept.

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