The Science of Revision

By Rick Bursky

The first time machine I built sent me
only seven seconds into the past
to see myself at the moment of hesitation,
my hand’s shadow across the button.
How different my life would be if I arrived
that Monday night three and a half years ago.
The room dissolved into a wormhole.
My body shuttered violently, an earthquake
that began in the heart, the metamorphosis into cosmic dust.
I swear I could hear my ribs touch each other.
Is this what it feels like to die? The portal
on the other side, resurrection?
You believe in mathematics!
You have to believe this.
I rolled my shirtsleeves up.
This is science in revision.
People are nothing more than clocks that bleed.

There’s always a moment of hesitation.
I looked at her sitting across the table
staring down into her glass of beer.
I was out of time. She hadn’t asked
the question that brought us there.
So I asked. I once thought you could break open
atoms as easily as walnuts. Now I know
only a walnut breaks like a walnut.
I pressed the button a hundred times
only to see myself press the button.


Rick Bursky’s book, The Soup of Something Missing, was published by Bear Star Press. His book, Death Obscura was just released by Sarabande Books. He has been nominated for a Puchcart Prize three times and his poems have appeared in many journals including American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Southern Review, Field, Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner, Black Warrior Review, Shenandoah, and New Letters.  Rick teaches poetry at UCLA Extension. You can read his blog at

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