Ripples in Space-Time

Geeking out this morning over the detection of gravitational waves, I thought I’d share this poem from A God’s Life with Ben’s general relativity-based time travel idea—that one might be able to transform between movement in space and movement in time something like the way one transforms between mass and energy in special relativity. 

The Pesach Seder


A little girl—Rachel, Jeremy said—

holds a basket over her head

for me to choose from.

I draw a tiny triceratops,

find its mate on the table,

almost as far as possible from Jeremy.


Rachel sits next to me

and flashes a wide baby-flirt

smile. Then, she attacks

my triceratops with her stegosaurus.


Across the table, Jeremy secures a spot

by his other cousin. He asks Ben if he’s still

working on his time travel theory.


Ben straightens from his slump.

“Well, I’ve gotten as far as an approximate

equivalency between space and time,

but I need more calculus

before I can get it exactly equal.”


“What would you do, if you controlled

time?” I say. He answers, “I’d go back and see

what really happened.” But nobody sees that.


Michael, Jeremy’s uncle, comes

from the kitchen saying, “Chicken’s

in the oven. Let’s get this show on the road.”


After the first half of the Seder

over bowls of matzah ball soup,

Michael and Jeremy’s dad argue

about the war; his mother waits

for Grandma Ruth to finish the story about her first job

during the Depression. She’s heard it before.


A couple glasses of wine later,

Michael starts balancing plates

on his nose. Jeremy’s mom

punches her brother’s arm.


Rachel tugs my sleeve, beckons me

to lean closer. She tells me how her mother

used to put food out for the neighborhood

alley cats, and Rachel named them.


Her favorite was a gray tabby

with a hint of orange in his coat.

She named him Marmalade.


Then winter came, and Marmalade

stopped coming around. Ben explained

about death, about the unknowable.


Then, their mother died.


She says she hopes the stories

aren’t true, that there isn’t only one love

for each person. She says she doesn’t want

to believe god could be that cruel.


Later, on the subway, I pull Jeremy

into a crushing hug. “I love you, too,”

he says. I wish he didn’t.