The Alternative

The Alternative
(The time traveler stepped on a butterfly.
Just see what he’s done!)

Time becomes tangled, and is folded, like a complex protein.
Straighten it, and it goes on forever.
I am told that our genes, stretched out,
are in length more than two meters.
And that is in every cell in our body.

One must not be too startled
by these quirks of reality. It is, though,
those changes that technology supplies,
which give us the most bizarre results.
For example, when Alexander the Great
was thirty two, on a barren hillside,
overlooking the Ganges, he tripped,
and developed an infection in his leg.

A doctor appeared at his Babylon bedside
and gave him antibiotics. Surviving
this ordeal was but the first step
in what must be considered an incongruity.
The young conqueror went on
to consolidate his empire, and two centuries later
it was the Romans who fell, and not the Greeks,
one of those little changes which have the most promiscuous results.
One variation leads to another.

And I, though I may have been amongst those
who sent back that time-traveling
doctor with his vials and syringes
on an ego trip from which he never returned,
that version of me was, most likely never even born,
and I had no memory, except in my imagination,
and the fortuitous discovery of scattered inferential papers,
that any such event occurred.

Nowadays there’s a lot of hu-ha, and a mouthful
of praise for Zeus, about variants
in protein structure,
and how, with Crispr-crech, and a little tweak,
we are able to transform a cancer into a minor cough;
But think about time: how little we know,
how its variations are like a garden’s growth,
how an entire world can hop
on a different foot to the slightest change,
to the passing pluck and complexity of a weed.