.

Younger Selves

I have you leaning up against my side,
Our boys and girls around us on the couch.
Below the window, watching from outside,
Our younger selves, age twelve, crawl up and crouch.

The boy and girl each took a time machine,
The dial set to travel here today.
We met below that window, saw this scene,
And learned that you would be my wife someday.

The woman here whose head leans next to mine
Was also she who you’d grow up to be.
Our older selves thus showed the clearest sign:
No need to ask you, “Will you marry me?”

Back home, they’ll seek each other out and meet,
And here we are—the circle’s now complete.

.

.

The Time-Travel Addict

Just one more trip to days ahead
And back to just before I go
So none will know through time I’ve fled.
Just one more trip to days ahead!
I’ve got a gray and balding head
Though born but twenty years ago.
Just one more trip to days ahead
And back to just before I go!

.

.

Joshua C. Frank works in the field of statistics and lives near Austin, Texas.  His poetry has been published in SnakeskinThe LyricSparks of CalliopeWestward QuarterlyAtop the CliffsVerse Virtual, and The Asahi Haikuist Network, and his short fiction has been published in Nanoism.”


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13 Responses

  1. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Josh, I love this quirky look at life through the poetic lens of the Sci-Fi genre. Both poems are beautifully crafted, intriguing, and quite heart-touching in their unique take. The repetition in the triolet form works very well in this time-travel marvel. Great stuff!

    Reply
    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Susan! I’m so glad you like them!

      Both poems are based on my childhood imaginative play. Under the influence of movies such as Back to the Future and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I imagined traveling through time, and these poems are based on two of the scenarios I remember imagining.

      Reply
  2. Roy Eugene Peterson

    These are two sci-fi poems that seem to be mental play as in thoughts or dreams, as much as they are of the sci-fi genre. You packed a lot of interesting images into a small space that only an adept poet like yourself can do.

    Reply
    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Roy. That’s such a huge compliment: “…only an adept poet like yourself can do.” As for the first part, see my reply to Susan’s comment.

      Reply
  3. Paddy Raghunathan

    You have done a wonderful job of giving a romantic touch in the first poem, and a philosophical touch in the second.

    Excellent reads.

    Best regards,

    Paddy

    Reply
  4. Brian A. Yapko

    Josh, I’m a sucker for time-travel stories and both of these are highly enjoyable for their narratives as much as for their poetry. “Younger Selves” demonstrates the classical time paradox of future events interfering in past events (yours is sort of the opposite of “the grandfather paradox” in which a present-day character alters the past.) Would the two children ever meet and marry if they didn’t travel to the future to see their future as a married couple? And yet they only marry BECAUSE they’ve seen the future. The causal loop becomes quite complicated and intriguing.

    I also really enjoyed “The Time Travel Addict” for its wonderful reliance on relativistic time dilation for the observers at home who never travel through time. This is a great spin on the classic Paradox of the Twins (a subject on which I wrote a published sci fi short story a couple of years back.) Usually it’s the traveler who ages minimally while those who stay home get old. You’ve turned that upside down, primarily because your speaker has lived out a lifetime in voyages into the future. Susan’s right — your use of the repetitive form is perfect to underscore the repetitive experience of the same time’s passage.

    Both of these poems are wonderful speculative work which could easily be expanded into narrative forms.

    Reply
    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Brian. I’m glad you like both the stories and the poetry.

      I love time-travel stories as much as you do, always have (see my reply to Susan’s comment). The causal loop in “Younger Selves” makes sense if you consider divine providence: God arranges for the speaker and the woman He intends for him to marry to meet outside their future home while they’re still children.

      In time-travel movies, the character spends days or even weeks in other times and then returns to around the same time he leaves; I rarely see a story address the issue of what happens after a lot of these trips.

      Reply
  5. Margaret Coats

    Josh, both of these are interesting uses of the time travel motif, but let me leave aside the competent triolet because the sonnet is so complex it’s downright scary. As Brian says, the sonnet is extremely complicated and could easily be expanded as narrative, where it might become easier to follow. As it is, it requires precise attention to tenses, pronouns, sentence structure and grammatical case and mood to discern scene shifts, to identify time relations, and to understand what happens in each. Why not just be sentimental about two pairs of sweet characters? Because time travel always presents peril that needs to be resolved, whatever the outcome. And since you present the outcome as happy, there needs to be assurance that it is.

    You probably know that age twelve remains the canonical age of consent for marriage. Thus you have the younger selves here enter time travel just as soon as they are capable of doing what makes the contract that is a sacrament for the baptized.

    It would take a full whiteboard to diagram lines 9 and 10, but congratulations on correct grammar! Many writers fail at clauses like this, but you have a wonderful combination of interrelated intransitive verbs of being and becoming. And here is also the peril. The older man addresses the girl, transgressing time. But imperceptibly he becomes the boy again. The boy speaks line 12, and indeed he has no need to make a proposal, because for him it is still in the future, a future that he can see as a result of the proposal having been made at the proper time. Happy foresight does not transgress time.

    In line 13, he is his older self again, addressing his wife about the boy and girl they were. This too is safe. The last bit of intrigue is “circle” because the time travel diagram is not round. “Circle” either means (as image) a “circuit” tracing the complex turns and returns that have happened, or it means (as symbol) perfection. “Perfection” is preferable because it expands the “we” to include the children.

    Best wishes as you travel toward perfection, Josh.

    Reply
    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Margaret. The sonnet went through a lot of iterations over a long time before I could finally get it to its present form.

      Yes, tense is extremely complicated when writing about time travel. In one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, there’s a time-traveling character who says he has long since given up on the proper use of tenses. I really had to think about the grammar of this one.

      Reply

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