Saturday, January 01, 2011

Science Poems for January 2011: 1

Last April I posted a science sonnet a day in celebration of National Poetry Month (index with links here). This January I am posting a science poem a day, written in various traditional forms, in honor of Science Online 2011.

The "fifth annual international meeting on Science and the Web" occurs Jan. 13-16, 2011. Click on the logo below to access their daily digest (already active) on

As with the sonnets, my January poems take their cues from science-based articles. I also have two works in a special science poem section (vol. 33 #5/6) of Star*Line, journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. You can read my "Ciliate Sestina" here.

Today's New Year's Day poem is another sestina and takes its cue from "Scientists find evidence for 'chronesthesia,' or mental time travel" (PhysOrg, Dec. 22, 2010). Note that I have taken some liberties with interpreting the experimental design; click on the article link to learn more about the research. To learn more about the traditional poetic structure used, click on the form name below the title.

(Form: Sestina, with 14-syllable lines)

Take an imagined walk on a road you know. It is spring.
Song birds have returned, and the sun's warmth, some time in the past.
Perhaps you are a child again. Perhaps it was last year.
You wave hello, remember neighbors' faces even now,
Lying in a machine, brain lit up. In the near future
The clock will cut your daydream short. The real world will go on.

Lars Nyberg leads a research team. All they had to go on
Were studies melding time and action, so they've had to spring
Time loose. The scene remains the same, but it is the future.
You have errands, appointments, bills to pay before they're past
Due. Take that same walk in your same comfortable shoes. Now
Drops behind. True present computes elsewhere. This is your year,

And before you know it, you have entered another year,
One that never was. A fictional past to reflect on.
You tread the same road to mail a phantom letter. What now?
Your thalamus, cerebellum, parts of your cortex spring
To life on screens in a darkened room. How much time is past?
Moments need repeating, replicating in the future.

But now is not yet time to make new plans for the future.
Again you walk your road, but in the present. It's this year,
This day, this hour. Your collar's turned up. The snow wheels past.
Live in the moment, the cold. It's all you've got to go on,
Caught in time's steady flow. You follow the bends of its spring.
Nothing left to do but let it carry you across now.

How do you know something happened back then and not right now?
How do you know your childhood isn't part of your future?
Why won't winter turn into autumn, then summer, then spring,
Flower grown into seed, a second pregnant with a year?
Data compiles in the blink of an eye. The clock ticks on.
Subjective time stretches like taffy pulled from sweetness past.

The research has been published. Data collection is past.
fMRI time capsules are left in the here and now
While, across the plains of eons, their travelers press on.
Each second, a new chance is born to foretell the future.
Walk with me. Let us share this space. Tell me about your year,
For it differs from my own. From what source does your time spring?

Now, "Our study, we hope, is the first swallow of the spring,"
Says Endel Tuving. Hope flocks past winter, to the new year.
Our brains flash on in temporal dark, lighting the future.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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