The Trolleyologist’s Dilemma by Sy Roth

No embellishments,
let’s just jump into it,
just the facts
wrapped in a sinister conundrum–

The problem, first scene.

The Conductor’s Question

The tracks,
straight, narrow gauge
the trolley wheels tattoo a distinctive sound
Morse code be-bop
in time to the screams
of a melody of desire
to live yet another second
one more minute in an infinity of minutes and seconds.
The trolley man sees them,
presented without a behind-the-scenes parley
a tryst of non-colloquy with a moral imperative.
The tracks and his trolley dictate the dis-ease before him.
On the tracks, some perfidious committer of pandemonium
has strapped five people to the steel tracks.
The trolley gobbles them up voraciously in seconds.
The victims struggle against their ties.
They feel the grinding trolley wheels
louder and louder
sending skritching signals to their backs
pounding rhythms in their ears
ruin to their doomed minds.
To the conductor’s left, a lever–
a salvation
but for how many when the trolley veers away
takes its other course?
The conductor’s head bobs like an apple in a barrel of water
assessing in nanoseconds
his choices.
He thinks:
Can I bite into one apple and pluck it from the barrel?
Or is it the trolley car’s diktat of five crushed?

An Eyewitness’s Question

She sees the trolley
headed inexorably in one direction
her fevered brain notes
the five souls who struggle against their ties
tied to the track
swishing like tsunamic waves from side to side
in a determined syncopated swim
their mouths pressed in O’s of desperation.
Beside her a lever clearly marked
where two tracks diverged
as time gestures coquettishly
for a decision in milliseconds.
The trolley makes a beeline toward them
filled with no exasperation
its wheels grinding exceedingly slowly.
Her fevered brain senses that it could
only veer from its intended target in fractions.
Only one could likely survive
the others condemned.
She asks:

Eyewitnesses on the Bridge

The third in the trilogy–
may we seek solace in their presence?
Another Trolleyologist dilemma.
Over the tracks two men stand
stone statues on a bridge
overlooking the oncoming trolley.
Below the five bellowing victims still tied to the track.
Both observers shocked by what they are about to see.
No magical lever exists to divert the trolley.
It moves inexorably to the caterwauling of the innocents.
One man, the svelte onlooker, gesticulates at the conductor
but he cannot get his attention;
the other, an obese man, is swollen with a regretful face
and at the rage of his inability to change what is about to occur.
Svelte tosses him a look.
The trolley could have a diversion, he thinks.
The obese man can save someone.
Propelled to the tracks, the trolley may be diverted–
sacrifice for the good of the blameless.
The sylphlike one ponders.

A Trolleyologist Finale

The sidelines, all goggle-eyed
Looked on in despair
Schadenfreude smiles
Wrapped in their knitted brows.

©2017 Sy Roth


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