by William Shunn

The telegraph was not invented in 1836
but three thousand years before Christ,
when the first writer took up a pointed stick
and traced out on papyrus the careful,
casual chain of coded symbols that
transmitted meaning across time and space
directly into a brain equipped to decipher it.

The telephone was not invented in 1876
but over five thousand years ago
when the first writer took up a pointed stick
and scratched out the vibrations in clay
that tickle the tympanic membrane of the heart
with thoughts conceived in days older than dirt.

Telepathy was not invented in 2170
but forty thousand years before Christ
when, by the light of smoky torches,
the first writer poured out his heart
in ochre, hematite, and charcoal,
unable in any other way to express
the experience of stalking a god,
and slaying it with a pointed stick.

Copyright © 2018 by William Shunn


Featured Poet of the Month  William Shunn

William Shunn's three dozen works of short fiction have appeared everywhere from Asimov's to Salon, and have been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon Awards. His memoir The Accidental Terrorist, which intertwines his youthful misadventures with an irreverent biography of Joseph Smith, appeared in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Association for Mormon Letters Award. He currently serves on the XPRIZE Science Fiction Advisory Council, and he hosts and produces the monthly Line Break Reading Series near his home in Astoria, Queens. Learn more at www.shunn.net.