Harry Man

The Last Words of the Love-Sick Time Machine Pilot

And would you ever know if I had
snatched the keys from under the mat,
and unlocked the nucleus of our parents’ old Astra
with its quarks of petrol and spent Silk Cut packs

and taken my younger self for a spin
past the shutters lit blue from within –
the freezer light of Kennedy’s fishmonger’s
not Frankenstein’s lab after all – sorry,

and told you, Donny, this one’s important:
do what you were going to do and ask Susie Whitlow
on a date – yes, like last Wednesday when you tried
at Latchmere slides, feeling doubly sick from the height

and your nerves on the diving board ladder –
I shouldn’t remind you – but in ten years’ time,
over a bottle of wine, she’ll tell you she’s got
a new boyfriend, whose name, you joke, sounds

like a make of saucepan, which isn’t so funny
for you so much as a blow, but sometimes
a little hurt is worth a heartful – like baking
with Dad while nursing a broken foot

from that casserole dish you failed to lift,
and don’t leave for Dover without matches,
and put a couple more quid on Little Polveir
at the Grand National this year, but still

slip the winnings into the lining of Mum’s Dorla purse
like you were planning, and pulling up home again
I say, this is my last visit, I’m restoring the timeline,
so you should go and tip-toe inside and pause for a beat

on the third stair, and when the past’s within walking distance
try not to startle all three of your selves on the landing,
or you’ll wake everyone up and we won’t make it,
and Mum wants answers and Dad gets sick

and don’t recall our talk to anyone,
over time it will blur, and merge;
let’s call me the best of a good conscience
and say these things, and only these things

meaning when you test the Burnell core in Culham
after the press conference, you keep curious,
stride into the temporal displacement unit,
feeling in your atoms you might never know?

HARRY MAN lives in Streatham, South London. His first pamphlet, Lift, was published by Tall Lighthouse (London) in 2013. His poems have appeared in New Welsh Review, ditch, And Other Poems and elsewhere. His work is anthologised in Coin Opera 2, Drawn from Marvel, and PEN International’s Made Up Words. He works as a freelance digital editor and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.