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… to my poetry website! Just click on one of the tabs above to read my astro-poems about Mars, the Mars rovers, and more.

If you’re more interested in the universe and the beauty of the night sky, this page “Out There” is a good place to start…

Thanks for visiting!

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FELICITTE

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FELICITTE

 

As the YouTube vid begins she looks like any other cat:

Huge, blinking eyes; a natty tuxedo of black and white fur;

Twitching whiskers and cute button nose.

The nice man in the white coat keeps stroking her,

Petting her, tickling her behind her pointy ears like a kindly vet –

 

And then you see it: an obscene SCART socket embedded in her head

Where some French Frankenstein screwed a metal plate

Into her fragile skull and wriggled wires into her brain,

Hoping to learn how being in space would affect her thoughts and feelings.

How the hell did they think she’d feel,

Crammed into a tiny metal crate and hurled up into space?

 

After being plucked from the Paris streets she had some “training”.

They carried her to a centrifuge where, sealed into a space age

Iron maiden, in a chamber with more than enough room to swing a cat,

They twirled her round and round and round,

The sound of her crying drowned out

By the whumpf, whumpf, whumpf of the whirling machine…

 

When it finally came her trip into space was brief,

Only a quick, fifteen minute/156 klick

Alan Shepard up-and-down-again,

But still far enough to make history;

Still high enough for her furry face to be

Immortalised on tea towels, mugs and stamps

As wily Felix, who should have flown but escaped

With only hours to go, scampered off to freedom.

 

Back on Terra Firma a heroine’s welcome waited,

Then three months of well-earned cuddles, hugs and smiles

Before they cut her up like ham, slicing her clever brain like bacon.

All in the name of “science”, insisting it would help them

Launch astronauts of their own safely in years to come…

But they never did.

 

I know, I know… “It was a different time”, you say,

They’d never do anything like that now.”

And that’s true. But when I look into Felicitte’s eyes,

See her blinking in black and white

I feel ashamed at the price she paid

For their curiosity.

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2017

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OUMUAMUA

OUMUAMUA

 

It came from outer space.

Not from our own solar system’s sleepy suburbs,

Oh no. No weary commuter from the Kuiper Belt, this;

No wide-eyed tourist on vacation from the Oort.

Its home was somewhere… (cue Sagan stare)…Out There,

Somewhere so far away it fell through the black

For millions of lonely years before our Sun began

To brighten ahead, and as Sol grew slowly from a Tinkerbell spark

To a phosphorous-bright flare, Oumuamua felt warmth

For the first time in millennia…

 

Falling through the void like a stick kicked off a bridge,

Tumbling end over end over end, a pen twirling between nimble fingers

It flashed past the Sun then dashed away again,

An alien child playing “knock a door run”

With Humanity, teasing us with a fleeting glimpse

Of its strange beauty before continuing on its Littlest Hobo wanderings

Around the Milky Way. So strange to think

Its next encounter with a star could be as far

In its future as the dinosaurs’ roars are behind us.

 

Online, astronomers adored it; drooling

Nibiru Nutters declared it proof of their pathetic fable’s truth;

Excited SETI and sci-fi fans alike swapped memes and dreams

Of Rama, Galactica and other beloved craft.

 

But the experts insisted “It’s just a rock.”

And of course it was: a rogue asteroid, a piece of useless rubble

Tossed away by some distant Sun with billions more to spare.

Definitely not a probe, not an eatee Voyager or New Horizons

Flying through our neighbourhood snapping photos

Like a socks-and-sandals sightseer in a foreign land,

Listening for the mournful melodies of whales…

Not an alien Enterprise sent by another spiral arm’s Federation,

On a mission to see if we were ready

To be admitted entry to their shiny Galactic Club.

 

But if it was

 

Imagine the horror as the scanned us, the screams

As their Bridge’s view-screen filled with images

Of Earth: hate-drenched American Nazis

In their Dawson’s Creek loafers, chinos and polo shirts

Sieg-Heiling on Norman Rockwell’s streets;

Screaming children thrown onto crackling bonfires

By cackling African warlords; women gang-raped

On buses in India, to a Bollywood soundtrack of laughter;

Oceans choking with plastic and wire;

Rainforests burning like funeral pyres;

Butchered elephants on their knees in pools of blood,

Tusks hacked off to feed ivory traders’ greed;

Refugees crammed into leaking dinghies,

Crossing storm-tossed seas, searching for new lives free

From snipers’ bullets and the mushroom clouds of barrel bombs;

Trump, grinning smugly on the White House lawn,

A mandarin-hued Mussolini playing god

With the lives of billions, poking Armageddon

In the eye like a child tormenting a cat…

 

Not hard to imagine an alien Kirk’s reaction

To witnessing all that: “No… Not yet… Perhaps not ever…”

They’d sigh, turning away, before ordering their Sulu

To quietly fly right on by.

 

Which, of course, is exactly what Oumuamua did…

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2017

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Kielder Starcamp October 2017

KIELDER STARCAMP OCTOBER 2017

 

Who would have thought the sky

Could hold so much water?

 

Day after day of it, night after night;

Hawaiian waves of rain slashing across

The campsite, leaving star-starved stargazers

Cowering in their caravans and camper vans,

Or huddled inside soaked and sagging tents set

A’trembling with each lusty gust of wind…

 

( There was even a hurricane – an honest-to-god hurricane

That thundered through like a thousand runaway trains.

Everyone who listened to that, shivering inside their sleeping bags,

Should get a special medal, I think. )

 

We saw stars one night last week…” someone said

As we sheltered beneath Steve’s cabin’s dripping roof,

The glowing screens of Samsungs and iPhones

Bathing our sleep-deprived faces in icy blue light

As we tried, in vain, to get online,

Straining to make First Contact with the outside world.

We even saw the Milky Way…!”

We all turned away, heads shaking. Really?

Easier to believe in unicorns and leprechauns

Than a starry Kielder sky this week; easier to seek

The Holy Grail, or catch a dragon by the tail

Than catch a glimpse of a globular cluster or comet.

I swear, astronomers in Mordor would have had more

Chance of seeing anything “up there” than us this week,

As Northumbria’s bored weather gods waged

A Shock and Awe war above our drizzle-drenched heads,

Sending us early to our beds each night to dream

Of the dark and starry skies that should have been;

Reminding ourselves that things are much better than they used to be;

Remembering how, in ye Olden Days,

Before the digging of The Great Drains,

Ducks would swim smugly on lakes lapping between inundated tents,

The fields transformed into a refugee camp,

An astronomers’ shanty town of half-drowned EQ mounts

And tripod-trapping mud…

 

But here we are again, And every night, no matter what it throws at us

We’ll laugh and shrug it off, scoffing crisps and chocolate

In our camper as the rain begins to fall… again…

And if we want more company we’ll splosh down to

The Warm Room where the half-drunk Scots, with whisky glasses

Sloshing, will be having yet another “heated debate”

About – well, anything. Everything.

And if the stars do come out we’ll head back to our scopes

And cameras, haul off their covers and fall in love

With the sky all over again,

Remembering why we do this;

Why we come to this celestial Somme

And wait… and wait.,. and wait…

 

 

 

Because when the clouds eventually clear

The stars here feel near enough to touch.

Jewel bright, they burn in Kielder’s sky

Like the finest diamonds ever cut; so beautiful

To look at it hurts to look away.

We’ll say “I’d forgotten it could be like this…”

As the midnight wind hisses through the trees

And shooting stars skip breezily across the sky

Like stones skimmed across a pond, again and again

Through a long, dark night of countless deep sky delights;

Of peering into friends’ and strangers’ eyepieces

At pinch-of-salt star clusters and misty

Catherine Wheel galaxies…

 

Hours later, after a dozen once-in-a-lifetime views

Of Messier’s most famous celebrities, far more real than any Hubble

Or iTelescope’s photograph could ever be,

We’ll turn our backs on the dawn and fall into our beds,

The pitter-patter of the rain singing us a lullaby

As we finally fall asleep, dreaming of the next clear night…

 

© Stuart Atkinson October 2017

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CASSINI’S TWILIGHT

CASSINI'S TWILIGHT poem

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JUNO Above The Great Red Spot

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Peggy

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She never raised a paw in anger to me; nothing but love

Was ever painted on her tiny tapering face.

She didn’t so much walk as stalk across the floor,

Her always-out claws, shattered hips and arched spine

Made moving in straight lines from As to Bs impossible.

And often she would just sit there at my feet,

Staring, her hazel and gold dragon eyes locked on mine

Like feline phasers and I’d wonder what she was thinking,

What memories were rising to the surface as she looked into me.

Sometimes in her sleep, with eyelids twitching and tiger-striped

Legs kicking a nightmare would finally catch her

And she’d wake with a start, wobble over to me, shaking,

Clamber onto my chest and rest her face against mine,

Needing to be near me until the shadows of her past

Faded away for another night.  I swear,

If I could go back in time, steal a TARDIS,

I’d find whoever made my beautiful, huge-hearted

Girl into the bag of broken glass that rested its head on my lap

While I made mosaics of Mars, stitched together images of Pluto

And Rosetta’s tumbling, crumbling comet

And break their teeth, make them limp,

Hack off whichever cruel hand they used to cut off

Her tail and laugh as they wailed.

Maybe somewhere in the Multiverse she lived a normal life,

Without that pain. I like to think so.

But I know she loved her time with us;

Loved being plucked off the ground and held

Against my chest, nestling under my chin; loved Riverdancing

On the pillow behind me at 4am, wowing “Now… Now…”

Again and again and again – a rude awakening two hours

Before I needed to be up; loved lapping water

From her shell-shaped cup, the only one she’d use;

Loved making me surrender every prawn or piece

Of chicken from every sandwich I ever tried to eat,

Leaving only bare, buttered bread behind for me;

Loved draping herself over my shoulder like a sash,

Eyes flashing, purring like a chainsaw; loved pushing away

My laptop screen when I really needed to write…

 

One memory shines lantern-bright:

Night falling at Kielder… a soft breeze whispering through

The northern wall of trees and her nested in my arms,

Only half awake, eyelids heavy, barely open

As we stood outside the tent.

No-one else around; the only sound the wind chime tinkling

Of the twinkling stars coming out above us and her soft breathing.

Already halfway to a dream, there was no fear on her face,

She was safe, at peace with me, bathed

In the light of a million distant suns as the turning of the Milky Way

Gently rocked her to sleep…

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2017

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EARTHRISE

Couple of days late, I know, but here’s my poem for Day #30 of National Poetry Writing Month… last one… phew!

earthrise jpg

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