Portrait, with Paradox and Repetition


Let's return 
to that question you've asked 
as if you were asking again 
for the first time: the one

about the paradox in which 
you think returning to the supposed 
origin of an event could alter or avert 
the accident— For instance, stop 

the encounter between the archduke 
and his wife and the man who shot them 
at point-blank range; return all the bats
and pangolins chafing in their cages 

at the seafood market to the wild. 
If you had stayed in your old life
instead of chasing the dream
of finding a way to break 

the cycle of one way streets and dead
ends, would your children be happier
than they are now? But if you 
could travel back in time faster 

than the speed at which you wake 
and sleep, sleep and wake 
to the dailiness of the present,
you'd meet yourself without 

recognition, so that whatever 
has happened will happen anyway.
Even if you're not the one 
the Terminator winds up helping, 

the future already exists. 
Sometimes—like when you lose
yourself in the rapture produced 
by music or the stillness 

after sex, or coming
to the satisfying finish of a poem
or novel, it's as if you've slipped 
into a wormhole whose end is 

the beginning. The fragment of an hour 
can stretch the horizon's belt, or move
the way a hummingbird's rapidly beating 
wings transform it into a jeweled ornament 

as if unmoving, fixed in space. You 
tell yourself someday you'll look back at
this terrible year and wonder how anyone
both lived through and endured all it brought.



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