Star Trek Immortality

by Herb Kauderer


Standing in the kitchen, looking back
at Star Trek writ small
on the distant television screen
in the living room, I can see
that the phasers have come out again,
and I think, “It’s time for someone
to be dead for a while.”

I remember back to the original series
where the dashing Lt. Galloway
died about every fifth episode,
only to show up again
handsome as ever.
Sometimes his name changed a little.
Typos probably.
I think Galloway sired Riker.
Hell, maybe in real life, too.

Galloway became the symbol
for what Star Trek taught
my teen-age self. He taught me
no matter how scattered my atoms
there was always a chance to survive.
A chance the transporter could whip up a new me.
A chance the Captain would risk dozens of lives
to bring me back from the dead.
A chance my mind would be preserved
with a last-moment Vulcan mind meld.

And then Next Generation confirmed the lessons
and expanded the possibilities.
I didn’t even have to figure out
how to reach the 24th century anymore.
People from here and now
could be reborn on the holodeck.
Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein appeared.
Famous politicians and historical figures
filled the backgrounds.
They taught me that enough fame here and now
could buy future immortality.

My recollections of Star Trek lessons
are broken up by the latest installment.

As I watch from the kitchen,
disembodied personalities of a Starfleet crew
shipwrecked 200 years ago are
unwilling to accept their own rightful deaths
and so hold tight to the bodies of the show’s stars.

And it is too much.

I am driven to the keyboard with my head
swimming in Star Trek’s denial of mortality
only to realize I don’t even have the big picture.
I’ve only considered the message from the future.
A message more elegant than today’s fan frenzy;
a frenzy fixated on now and syndication
when proto-immortals know
that buying or stealing an extra’s role
will make their magnetic ghost live forever.

And while all this immortality
fills my living room,
my coffee cools in the microwave
unattended and made irrelevant
by my need to speak,
even if only to a hard drive and back-up disk.
My 50+ year-old self demands a say
on these teen-age lessons.

And this is it:

I dissent.
I dissent.
I am not a true believer.
No holodeck
will ever shape my frame.
No transporter will gather my atoms.
No space frontier doctor
will regenerate my flesh after
it’s been eaten by monsters
and burned by phasers.

I will not reach into the 24th century.
No matter how many stories and books
and poems I sell,
my memory will be lost.
Lost beneath the crush of the Information Age.
Pounded to dust by the weight of overpopulation.
Disregarded in the rush for space.
Killed by time and madmen.
By epidemic and entropy.

I live only now,
and only this life,
and now
is a television commandeered by children
to play a Pokémon video.
And now is a phone call from an old friend
who doesn’t mind keys clacking
while we talk. And now
is an abandoned cup of coffee
waiting to be reheated
again.


Copyright © 2016 by Herb Kauderer

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