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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…

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Wired

 

They come here in their thousands every year,

Desperate to hear birds singing and water slapping on the stones

Instead of the noises that drive them to despair back home:

The rumbling of cars, horns blaring as their drivers’ tempers flare at crossings

And street corners; people shouting orders across crowded bars;

Muzac blaring from the open doors of every shop and store.

They come here to walk beneath swaying trees, leaves crunching

Beneath their feet, laughing as daredevil squirrels leap

From branch to branch above their heads, tiny silhouettes

Against the fume-free sky.

They come here for peace, to gulp down the golds and blues and greens.

Some walk hand in hand with loved ones along puddle-pitted paths.

Others are happy to savour the silence on their own, their phones forgotten

For a few priceless hours…

 

But clearly others despise such precious places.

Standing in these wonder-filled wide open spaces

They can’t bear to look up and see the achingly-pretty

Blue sky without wanting to scrawl graffiti on it;

Can’t gaze upon a forest of tall, cloud-scraping trees

Without wanting to hack them down,

Cheering as they crash to the ground,

Slaughtered with chainsaws that buzz like a million bees.

In their eyes a shimmering lake is just… water,

A flat, empty plate of it,

Something for people to look down on as they fly over it,

Screaming, dangling beneath a screeching wire…

 

It’s hard to understand such vandalism

When our towns and cities expand every day,

Spreading-out like mould on a dirty plate.

“Progress” and “development” devour the countryside

With an appetite that never seems to fade.

Every year we lose more grass, more trees,

More birds, plants and bees.

Our oceans are dirtier, the very air we breathe grows fouler too.

So who could look at such a rare, unspoiled view

And think “It would look even more beautiful

Criss-crossed by a cobweb of wires”?

Just how cold does your heart have to be to believe

That people’s shrieks and screams, and the R2D2-beeping

Of cash-filled tills, would be more thrilling to hear

Than the soft footsteps of a family of deer

Or the wind whispering through the trees?

 

© Stuart Atkinson Dec 31 2017

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MERry Christmas

merry-christmas-space b

 

MERry Christmas

 

Christmas Day… dawn… and high on Endeavour’s ancient rim

Opportunity slowly wakes, yawning, blinking

As the cold Sun climbs up from behind the faraway hills,

Rising into a smoky blue sky.

All through Christmas Eve night she dreamed – as she often does –

Of Earth, but one dream was so strange. Some time

After midnight she could have sworn she saw a man

Standing beside her. Tall and round, silhouetted against

The ice chip stars, his spacesuit was…bizarre…

Bright red torso; snow white fur wrapped ‘round its rubber seals

And heavy boots as black as coal.

With his hand resting on her back he knelt down beside her,

Knees crunching in the duricrust and whispered

“You survived another year, dear little one,

So here’s a gift for you…”

Then he smiled, kind eyes flashing Phobos-bright –

 

– and suddenly she was back at JPL, with all its voices and laughter.

She could smell new-mown grass being chewed by wide-eyed deer;

Feel warm Pasadenan rain falling softly on her beetle-winged

Back, sluicing Barsoom’s cruel dust away as a gentle wind

Blew over, around and through her, a delicious dry car wash

Sweeping the fines away, leaving her sparkling clean again –

 

When she woke, looking around she found nothing had changed.

Cinnamon-hued rocks and stones still covered the ground

Between her weary wheels and tilting back her heavy head

She stared up into the same old sepia sky, a dome painted

A hundred subtle shades of peach and tan, watered-down Shiraz

Reds and feathered clouds of candyfloss pink.

She was all alone. No-one else was in sight.

But in the dust, off to her side,

A pair of boot-prints stood out in the early morning light…

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2017

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FELICITTE

DPyBc3FX0AIH0v2

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

poem jpg

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