2 Poems by Russell Nichols

The Two Towers (or: The Battle for the Throne in the Home of Biggie Smalls)


I came on a mission
but I couldn’t read the sign;
enraged by the politicians
crooked by design.
It’s twenty fifty-five,
and the world’s all twisted;
so I’m looking for the time
to fix it.

Up at the counter,
I’m handed a waiver—
a standard disclaimer
for damage or danger.
(Or if my behavior turns reckless.)
I burn through the checklist.
The last question asks me:
Do you have a death wish?

A death wish?

I don’t understand
so I go ask the man
standing by the time machine
with my travel plans.

“I’m not a know-it-all,”
he says, “just protocol—
so we all know if you’re lost
or go AWOL!”
He throws me a gun
talkin bout: “Let’s play ball!”

The hunt’s all day long,
I had to take the day off.
Now inspecting my weapon,
I’m asking him questions,
confessing my depression
from the last election.

He says: “I was stressing at first,
but that’s finished—
yeah, that prez is the worst,
but truth is, he’s good for business.
‘Cause now mad libs wanna move
to a different time,
and we fill the blanks in
with packages and trip advice!”

But I’m not the one
tryna force my escape route;
I’m hunting for source of this chaos
so I can take him out.
He alludes they’ll be sued
if he names that “other guy.”
But the dude to blame
used his boot to kiss a butterfly.
I wonder why.

The guide says: “It was an accident.”
Then color me a Black 
butterfly rights activist.
Packing with my target in mind
I been practicing;
imagining traveling back when
to bust a cap in him.
Back to the past
when it all began unraveling.
Back to the land
of savages scavenging.

Now it’s time to leave—
he checks my itinerary,
guiding me into the machine.
I got the trigger ready.
Close my eyes,
reminded I’m a visionary,
but I can’t lie:
this rifle’s kinda getting heavy.

Arms trembling… 

Heart racing… 

Machine howling… 

But then starts shaking… 

Are we there?

The guide’s like: “Um, not quite…”
When I hear the screaming,
I know something’s not right.
He says: “We have a problem,
and I’m not being funny,
but it seems that we stalled
in twenty-twenty!”

Machine’s on the fritz.
Won’t even reboot.
Door opens, my hands lifted—
Please, don’t shoot!
Now fight-or-flight kicks in.
I make a run for it,
stumbling, fumbling the gun
I’m out my element;
a brother from another
hear the rumble of the thunder when
I’m huffing and puffing and snuffing
orange stuffed elephants.

Russell Nichols is a speculative fiction writer and endangered journalist. Raised in Richmond, California, he got rid of all his stuff in 2011 to live out of a backpack with his wife, vagabonding around the world ever since. Look for him at russellnichols.com.

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