By Nicola Rodriguez 
11th grade, Bear Creek High School, CO
Third place contest winner

With lines from “State of Change: Ancient Trees in North Carolina” by Frank Graff, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

time travel exists 
but in my life
I have only time traveled 
                                                         I stood in an ancient room
laden with silence
yet the 
mouths of voices 
still felt fresh in the air 
and dampened
my tongue when 
they spoke 

the sun was younger then 
than he is now,
the stained win
                                 panes let him in 
and laid him down on the empty bed 

in my hands 
time unwinded 
slipping beyond my reach 
as it came undone 
I held the thread 
and stood alongside 
the sun 
whose weary eyes
             looked into mine 
                       as he read to me 
                                    a faded chapter 
he had written long before my time 


i’ve heard stories
about what the sun is like now 
and how the ocean
has grown so hungry
it laps at the feet 
of cypress trees 
                two thousand years older
                                  than you and i
i know where 
                the daughters of giants 
                on the edge of our busy world 
                                                 collecting time
                                 like rainwater 
in black river 
hardwood forests
i know what it's like
to stand in a place 
where time wraps 
                  it's hot  
and the sun is still soft
against your hardened skin
as he opens your eyes 
so you can see
into a simpler past
where the world doesn’t spin 
so fast and
time travel
is just living 
from each day 
to the next 


will never know 
what in their lifetime their eyes have seen 
two millennia of weather east 
of the Rockies
carved down to tree rings 
whose bands run 
in dry years
to fit ‘round the fingers
of little men 
who care less for time traveling 
than for what greed can build for them

drought and extreme storms
chemicals and waste 
poisoning headwaters in the coastal plane 
what does greed break?

greed weighs
                  so heavily upon
the spines of men
that they make 
insatiate machines 
                  made to gnaw 
on old bones
and to lunge
                  at the throat 
                  of the earth 

the truth is 
time travel is a dying art
few ports remain for travelers
                  ancient rooms and cypress trees alike 
the tragedy of the commons is real
and the battle of greed 
will carry on through the night 

from my journey 
i’ve learned 
one leap of time 
                  is worth two human paces 
                  and although we cannot outrun it
      we must try

Nicola Rodriguez is a rising senior at Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, Colorado. Nicola believes strongly in the positive power of creative expression, whether it be shared with others or used as a personal outlet. Through songwriting, poetry, journaling, and art, Nicola expresses the value she sees in the world around us and the connections we build inside it.  

Read more winning entries from the 2022 Fighting Words Poetry Contest.