Time Travellers

When first we got our time machine working

(The way it works is, it sends us back to a time and place,

Then four hours later jerks us back where we left

Like a piece of elastic twanging)

We went to see The Myrmidons and Cardenio

Then headed off to Alexandria and Chang’an

To collect lost manuscripts.

Then Ari said “What we ought to do next

Is cure Keats of TB.”

“And Orwell as well,” I said, and that’s when we realized

We needed to find a doctor

Because you can buy air filters for Spinoza

But not antibiotics, or anxiety meds for Rousseau.

We needed someone who could prescribe.

So we advertised on Craigslist for an MD who loved history.

That’s where we recruited Leila,

And found ourselves smuggling penicillin to Gurku Hatan

And smallpox vaccine to Qinglian

And Vitamin K to Emilie du Chatelet,

Before heading to Aetearoa for roast moa.

(It was delicious.)

Then one day (it was two weeks later in real time

but it had been a busy few years for us subjectively)

we came back to find three people by our time machine

wearing the oddest clothes, smiling awkwardly,

with expressions I recognised from inside.

One held out a green box to Leila, saying:

“We don’t have much time to explain,

You know we’re from the future, right?

And you should all take a yellow pill every year,

To ward off eventual dementia!

The blue patches are for TB. The pink ones are for cancer.”

Leila reached out and took the box.

They grinned at us and vanished, with a faint twanging