Bring the Wheels of Time to Stop by Daniel M. Shapiro

In prison, his job is to check machines, to make sure nostalgia has been removed. What he had done couldn’t happen again: no more sitting in the last pickup, imagining to be one of the boys walking by. Secrets lived in someone else’s tree house. To think you peaked in youth is to languish in a cell, anyway. Because of him, no one can get away with pretending, with remembering how they loved abusive fathers, pranks at their expense. Some of the programmers couldn’t resist, setting up machines to miss restaurants that had burned down, athletics played for money. Uniquely capable of turning memories to happy lies, he can match them electrode for electrode, can identify the tiniest feelings with no purpose. He learned to curve his mind, to listen for commands such as go to the store, to make sure they don’t really mean describe that store I used to go to when I was 6. Vehicles are to turn right in 500 feet, not where people used to sit in rooms to watch motion pictures. He is new at it but almost where they want him, almost able to forget what it feels like to wear clothes that fit.

*Title is a lyric from “Turn Back the Clock” by Johnny Hates Jazz (#12 on UK Singles chart, 1987)

Daniel M. Shapiro is a special education teacher who lives in Pittsburgh. His book of celebrity-centered prose poems, How the Potato Chip Was Invented, was published by sunnyoutside press on New Year’s Eve 2013.