Amish Trivedi: Excerpt of 'Automata,' from 'FuturePanic,' with a note by the author
To keep waking up
missing the suns
beyond our own. The future
is a hard limit, the arc of history
long enough that no one here
will ever see enough of it.
Long after humans, maybe
two-hundred thousand years old,
would long have been buried
in the Earth’s graveyard,
Art is a kind of engagement
with the future, depleting resources
so it can replicate itself. What art does in crisis,
machines do in space
over a few million years. Poems are fast enough
their language is not forgotten, buried.
Whatever you create
while reading this
is my intellectual property
and you creep me out.
By the time anyone looks us up, we’ll be dust,
void, ashes scattered into the galaxy’s ocean,
Wake up knowing
there are only enough mornings. Wake
up knowing no one
knows we’re here. Wake up knowing
we won’t be missed. Lonely,
alone enough out here.
I’m not worried about my future —
there’s a hard limit to it.
Worry without really meaning it. There’s a hard limit.
An egg hatched, an astrochicken — a machine
that’s alive and giving birth
to itself. Four million years
of a future that’s not ours, of
replicated mornings. Life
an infinite loop until it rebuilds itself.
Pre-history for future Earthlings. We are
Time is terrorism unstoppable, exiled. A refugee of time.
I assemble you, call you into being, my baby universe.
A limited number of possibilities in an infinite universe:
not everything is permissible.
I stood in a room
and looked at all the things in it —
things that had been bought,
given, taken. I am
just as guilty. We are not guilty
because the house is divided —
we are guilty because
we are the ones
that divided it. Dying this way
may have been easy enough
but we’re living in a denial
that cannot hold itself together
forever, even if it can replicate itself
endlessly by draining us,
a planet, a star, a cow, a child, an Earth
of all resources, a parasite, our disease
spreading out across a galaxy for millions of years
after we’ve already killed ourselves
and left evidence in the only graveyard
no one can find.
Went into the river clean and came out with
one eye damaged. Was told there was time now
but heard it differently. I cannot hear
any of you:
the screamings of the mind have made ears
of new ghosts. It’s not the words that are hollow,
just the voice behind it. Ready to be something
other than deceived.
A lotus wilting above an abyss: locked out of the
unisex bathroom, bleeding, right leg first. Beginnings
mean nothing without your head
in an oven. It’s the way it’s
said that gets one in trouble; it’s the way it
breathes that chokes. It’s afternoon:
sirens are heard as they pull through
Time now for the earth below
to stand open: bringing the mountain in
means hearing its cries
in the night. One seed buried below,
One caught, strangled. About prayers
that settle into the room: I
set their skin on fire as the music stopped.
NOTE: FuturePanic encompasses macro and micro concerns to transform the reader’s sense of space and time and force them to engage with the present era’s perceptions of death, politics, and the border at which they meet. The opening (presented here and separately titled “Automata”) considers the Von Neumann Machine, an as-yet impossible organic machine designed to replicate itself across the galaxy over the next four hundred thousand years. Conceptual, expensive, and perplexing, the Von Neumann Machine raises questions present throughout FuturePanic — who benefits from the long reach of technology? How do the earth-bound conceive of transformation light years away? And how do mortals deign to simultaneously explore the potential for never-ending life at the cost of killing death for machines, while grappling with their own limitations — corporeal death, political conceit, and economic destruction of the world around them? Is the quest for knowledge that may outlast us all worth stargazing above the screams of others in the here and now and the cries of our own limited bodies and minds?