times change
circles and fears
one by one

Part of the Poetry in Motion at Poetry.com Project.
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A time capsule is a container, typically buried or otherwise sealed away, containing records, everyday objects, pop-cultural ephemera, or other items, and intended to be opened and examined at some point in the future, commonly from around 25 to up to several thousands of years later. These contents are meant to provide their eventual openers with a sense of what life was like in the past, serve as primary sources and well-preserved artifacts for future historians, and/or to create records of contemporary culture for the benefit of successor cultures or species, motives I suspect as not particularly foreign to E2 users.

Given the natural human drive for immortality, in whatever form it may be found, people have been intentionally burying records and the like for ages, most commonly in the cornerstones of buildings. The modern "time capsule" fad, however, dates back to a 1938 burial at the Westinghouse Pavilion at the New York World's Fair, proposed by science fiction author and futurist G. Edward Pendray, and conducted as a publicity event. Pendray was inspired by Dr. Thornwell Jacob's similar but more expansive "Crypt of Civilization" idea, and coined the term after being convinced that "time bomb", his first name, would be less than ideal. Inspired by this example through press reports or visits to the site, thousands in America and elsewhere created their own time capsules, and capsules have been placed in parks, lawns, city hall crawlspaces, school courtyards, and the like ever since.

The primary failing of time capsules is that people often forget where they are - 3,000 decay-resistant records of the location of the original Westinghouse capsule were printed and distributed to libraries, museums, and monasteries worldwide, but the documentation of other capsules has tended to be much less comprehensive. Given that the very idea of a time capsule is, generally speaking, to create something that will outlast our fragile mortal existences, surviving witnesses to their dedication are often rare, and printed references to their location, if any remain, are as difficult to track down as any multi-decade-old records. Even if the location of the capsule is known or can be rediscovered, there still remains the possibility that someone has in the interim unknowingly destroyed it, misplaced it, built something on top of it, or otherwise rendered it inaccessible. As this has already proven to be a significant issue for the relatively short-term capsules whose exhumation dates have already come up, one must question how many of the multi-thousand-year capsules will really be recovered as their creators intended.

time capsule

we ground our hands against the sky,
letting fragments of our flesh fall down
to the rocks far below our feet. ten years on
the ground remembers, and opens up
like a lazy flower bud unfurling in late summer.
surprised at our touch, it reveals
an inner pulse of tangled veins
holding at their heart a little glass jar
filled with shards of us.

far below our leather feet,
which ten years ago, unshod, trod with care
the labyrinth of dirt pathways choking these cliffs,
the sea drums a heartbeat on the rocks.
they too remember our palms
sealing up the jar, letting it fall with a soft thud
to the bottom of our hand-dug hole.
I see it in your eyes. these scraps of paper

are useless now, and the handwriting
alien to our touch. these are not our words,
so carelessly formed, too large, unlinked.
with hearts too full of ourselves to cry out,
we carry the jar to the edge of the cliffs
and let go.

the sky swallows it up like the corpse of a bird,
catches it in blistered hands and grinds it down
to the size of an upraised finger
stood tall against the dull sea.

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