I punched one day a strange computer key
That spawned an endless lunatic parade
Across the screen of visual debris
That I could not remove, still worse, evade.
But then I found what’s called “System Restore,”
A formula devised for all our sakes
That turns a hard drive back a day or more,
Deleting thus our most grotesque mistakes.
How great if this were growing nucleus
Of means to turn back time instead of drives —
Reversing bleakest days for all of us
So we can then re-do our botched-up lives
By blotting out the times I was an ass:
The time, when drunk, I ranted at a bar;
The time I mispronounced “faux pas” in class;
And all the things I did still more bizarre.
The scientists who heard Maud Muller* sigh
At churlish mate and dreary years on farms
Would gladly purge that time to let her lie,
A comely Maud, within the judge’s arms.
And that unravished bride on Keats’s urn,**
The one whom lustful bridegroom now pursues:
How fine if Grecian artist could return,
To stop the race and let the lady lose.
Our only hope now is that we’ll forget.
But someday we may prune what we regret;
And then the greatest words of pen or tongue***
Might be, “We just wiped out what we did wrong.”
*John Greenleaf Whittier, “Maude Muller”
** John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
***Whittier: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these: “It might have been.”
Reprinted with permission of "Lyric," Vol. 86, 2006