Joyce Sutphen

How lucky we are that we do not live
in the time of the Plague, when, in three

years a third of Europe’s population––
20 million people––died, and no one

knew the cause. How fortunate we
are to know that it was not the planets

or the wrath of God that caused it
but a tiny bacillus carried by fleas

on the backs of rats coming by ship
from Asia, and how much better it is

to live now, rather than in 1891, when
Thomas Edison filed patents for

the first motion picture camera and viewer,
which operated on a perceptual phenomenon

called “persistence of vision”––a thing that
tricked the brain into thinking it was seeing

seamless movement as the viewer stared
through a tiny peephole and beheld the

gray-and-black image of a horse, galloping.
This is what I think about as I leaf through

the ads for flat-screen TVs in today’s paper
or click a button on my phone to watch

a video posted from a pub in Ireland. Aren’t
we lucky that we have no idea how primitive

our lives will seem one day? How appalling
to realize that our best cures for cancer will

look like a form of torture and that we really
thought we couldn’t be everywhere at once.