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

relics, mythology.


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

the intersection.



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 above.

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?