Tesseract: A Parent’s Guide to Time Travel

By on Feb 12, 2014 in Poetry

Adult hand holding baby hand, with sketch filter

(with thanks to Madeleine L’Engle)

A tesseract, you may recall, acts like a wrinkle in time
Cinching together now and long ago or
Right this minute and decades hence
Like a pleat, a hem
Or a cloth swept from the table
All whorls and fluting, rapidly compressed. 

It’s what they nowadays would call a wormhole
And say you need a warp drive to approach.
But parents generate them just by being:
Seed them with our breath
Spark them with our glance
Roil spacetime’s fabric with our every step. 

You know it from yourself:

How the smell of chlorine can transport you
To those mornings with your mother at the pool
Her laughter at the cold and splash and rush of it
Your buoyancy, and hers 

How maraschino cherries take you back
To the diner where your father met his pals
His smoky smell, the crinkles round his eyes
And how you craved their light. 

So we outlive ourselves
Our images self-assembling
In a son or daughter’s view
Bright holograms that hearten, soothe, or sear. 

It’s something, you might say, to bear in mind:

That this little girl
Who takes forever to put her shoes on
Who will never, ever, go to sleep
Will one day be waiting at a stoplight
Or pause while paying a bill
And zoom back along the timeline to today.
When you look at her, see that woman
A little tired, maybe tense
With the lines of age just starting near her mouth
Watch her face change as she’s struck
By a sudden memory of you
Exactly as you are right here and now
Meet her gaze
And make her smile at the thought.




Kimberly Gladman Jackson received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University more than a decade ago. She has since left academic life, and writes and reads poetry just for the love of it. Her first published poems, "Rosary" and "Kaddish for Mr. Rosenbaum," appeared in Wild Violet.