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LAIKA’S GHOST

27 07 2015

Laika’s ghost is my companion on lonely stargazing nights.
In winter, shivering beneath Betelgeuse’s blood red eye
I reach down and quietly scratch her head,
Smiling as she nuzzles my hand, content,
Making no demands, her warm breath
Thawing my frozen fingers
While I fumble with eyepieces in the dark,
Firefly sparks of year’s end stars shining around us.

In summer, standing beneath the Milky Way’s arch,
Struck dumb by the beauty of its mottled clouds
I feel her running around my legs,
Weaving in and out again, a puppy at play
Until, wearily, she settles at my feet, leaning against
Me, fighting to stay awake, failing, finally
Falling asleep on the dew-damp grass.
Feet and tail are soon a’twitch, whimpering, lost
In dreams of fields never ran across,
Of icy rivers never splashed through,
Balls laughing children never threw for her,
Cartwheeling sticks never chased and returned…

I watch her eyelids dance as memories return.
Thunder rolling up from far below, tossed and thrown
From side to side, trapped within a tiny metal tomb
With steel walls inches from her face –
Suddenly, peace…quiet…she is in space.
Panting in the darkness, fascinated
To see dust and hairs drifting in slow motion
Through the already stale air –

Then the world spinning, round and around,
Needles of heat pricking from all sides,
Lungs filling with lava as the air grows furnace hot,
The last hours of her stolen life slipping away,
Thankfully asleep long before she has to see her sweat-matted fur
Catching fire before her eyes –

She wakes with a cry and I stroke her shaking head
Until the nightmares fade and she knows peace again.

Looking down I see her sitting beside me now.
Quiet, still, savouring the chill of this Perseid night,
Bright eyes staring at the murdering sky,
Remembering how she died a shooting star.

© Stuart Atkinson 2015





Minus 2 Hours

19 07 2015

MINUS 2 HOURS





DEPARTURES

19 07 2015

What are they? we wondered, leaning towards our screens,
Staring at four ghostly splashes of grey,
Knowing they would soon be carried away
From the Golden One’s gaze.
Murky methane lakes? Hydrocarbon dust plains?
Exquisite agony to speculate while hating
Those who will take our place in 20,000 days
When the next visitor speeds by…

A century after that, fat, wine-sipping sightseers from a dozen worlds,
Gliding in from the black in galleons with solar sails unfurled,
Will gaze down upon this place and yawn, impatient to be tacking for home
After roaming the Outer Realm for months.
Bored by bland Uranus and Neptune’s bridesmaid-blue bands
They’ll demand of the Captain “Take us back to Terra, now…”
But today all this is bright and new; who knew
LORRI’s lenses would transform this lonely bead of bone
Into a geological jewel? Out here, in the Kuiper Belt’s blizzard
Of ice and stone, bathed in the cruel light of a billion unreachable suns,
No-one predicted this mad Picasso world;
No-one expected the first maps to be marked with donuts and whales;
No-one dared to dream of a pale heart tattooed
On its cellulite-dappled thigh. ..

© Stuart Atkinson 2015





CHARON

19 07 2015

nh-charon enh me

…and then they showed us a world carved out of bone,
Painted a hundred shades of grey with smears of cold
Corpse blue;”new” craters scattered here and there
Like bullet holes left in desert road signs
By bored station wagon snipers.Around the pole – Mordor,
A dark plain stolen from Ganymede? Or an aquifer of blood
Bubbling deep beneath the ice?
Leaning forward in our seats we wondered if the screen
Would next show LORRI frames of orcs
Slaving over pits of fire,
Hammers clanging ‘gainst the glowing blades
Of newborn swords…

Instead, south of Mordor’s bruised border
We saw a vast, meandering gorge,
Like an axe wound cleaved from Charon’s face.
Easy to believe a screeching Fell Beast, not geology,
Made this – cruel claws raking the ground
As its tattered wings pounded the air,
Terrified foes fleeing across the ice,
The Nazgul on its back screaming with delight…

(c) Stuart Atkinson 2015





DEPARTURES

12 07 2015

What are they? we wondered, leaning towards our screens,
Staring at four ghostly splashes of grey,
Knowing they would soon be carried away
From the Golden One’s gaze.
Murky methane lakes? Hydrocarbon dust plains?
Exquisite agony to speculate while hating
Those who will take our place in 20,000 days
When the next visitor speeds by…

A century after that, fat, wine-sipping sightseers from a dozen worlds,
Gliding in from the black in galleons with solar sails unfurled,
Will gaze down upon this place and yawn, impatient to be tacking for home
After roaming the Outer Realm for months.
Bored by bland Uranus and Neptune’s bridesmaid-blue bands
They’ll demand of the Captain “Take us back to Terra, now…”
But today all this is bright and new; who knew
LORRI’s lenses would transform this lonely bead of bone
Into a geological jewel? Out here, in the Kuiper Belt’s blizzard
Of ice and stone, bathed in the cruel light of a billion unreachable suns,
No-one predicted this mad Picasso world;
No-one expected the first maps to be marked with donuts and whales;
No-one dared to dream of a pale heart tattooed
On its cellulite-dappled thigh. ..

© Stuart Atkinson 2015





APPROACHING PLUTO

21 06 2015

pluto b

APPROACHING PLUTO

Slowly, slowly, like a fish-feasted skull floating up from the ocean’s depths
Your features are being revealed.
So far your face shows just hints of light and dark:
A bright line here, a shadowy… something… there.
But no sparks of recognition yet;
We cannot know which patches are cratered plains, or
Which pixels are mountains’ jagged peaks,
Those secrets are still yours to keep a while longer.
And so, we wait; your blurry disc triggering memories
Of pre-Mariner Mars in the old timers from JPL,
Staring at iPads in packed Pasadenan bars,
Having waited all their lives for these science fiction days to dawn,
While impatient armchair astronauts – Photoshop sharp-shooters
And GIMP Gandalfs – leap gleefully on each new LORRI frame,
Saving them to hard drives before spending a coffee-fuelled night
Teasing features from their hazy dots and lines.

Soon we will Know You; soon we will swoon to pin-sharp views
Of – what? Tritonian black smoker plumes?
A lemon sorbet swirl of ice around your chocolate pole?
Methane clouds casting rolling shadows on craters
Wide enough to put Copernicus to shame?

(c) Stuart Atkinson 2015

Image courtesy of Bjorn Jonsson





At Marathon Monument

9 04 2015

AT MARATHON MONUMENT

I have climbed a mountain of troubles to get here;
Hopscotched fearlessly between crumbling craters,
Survived dust storms, suffered amnesia and arthritis to reach
This picture perfect place and now you would betray me?
I roll in triumph over the rock-strewn finishing line
Of history’s first off-Earth marathon and the medal
You would hang around my neck with a Judas kiss
Is the threat of being turned off?

No! I will rage against you,
Just as I rage against the rising of the tau!
Leave me be, free to prowl the planet until my weary wheels
Can turn no more; gulping down each glorious sunset;
Devouring each delicious dusty Van Gogh sunrise;
Washing my gritty eyes with splashes of ice cold starlight
As bony Phobos dashes, witch-swift, through the night
And Deimos a lonely, stony Sputnik, follows forlornly behind.

Just bide your time. One sol Mars itself will murder me,
As he has tried to ever since I landed here
All those years ago, and I will rove
No more. The light will finally dim, and beneath
Barsoom’s mournful moons the gentle winds
Of Ares will sing to me as I fall asleep,
To wake, perhaps a century later, in the Great
Museum of Mars, brushed and dusted clean,
Gleaming, surrounded by reed-thin, milk-white
Martian children – tall, elegant aliens stalking the halls,
Ignoring the shepherding calls of their teachers
As they rush around, “plucky Beagle 2” found
In Gallery 3 – opposite me,
Reunited with my sister, Spirit at last,
Walls of glass keeping us safe from sticky,
Souvenir-picking hands.

One distant sol, standing proudly side by side
For the first time since our awful separation at JPL
We will be worshipped and adored
By “rover huggers” from a dozen worlds and moons –
And you would end me so soon?
I still have fossilised waves of cinnamon sand to forge!
Slippery slopes to climb! Paradigm-shifting and
Textbook-rewriting discoveries to make!

Far to the south, blurred and dimmed by distance,
Impossibly far away (as Endeavour was once, remember?)
Hunch-backed Bopolu calls to me now –
A sunken soufflé of sediment and stone
Crying out to be roamed and explored –
With all these wonders ahead, and more,
I beg you: do not turn your backs on me
Nor make Marathon Monument my tombstone.

(c) Stuart Atkinson 2015

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Special thanks to my good friend Glen Nagle for turning this poem into another beautiful “poemster”… click to enlarge…

Poemster_AtMarathonMonument large








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