Preparing To Sleep…

My once-fierce flames are failing now:

Fading as the fleeing Sun fades,

And I can barely feel

Their warmth as I stand here,

On Barsoom’s epic Polar Plain,

Staring over a sea of ancient stones,

My very bones chilled by Mars’ aching cold

as my butterfly-brief life ebbs away… 


Once I stood proud beneath this great

Dome of a sky. Now my whole body shakes

In fear, for the hungry wolves of winter

Are drawing near. I hear their howling

on the icy wind, see their frost-flecked eyes

staring at me from the cruel dark,

proof that Death is stalking me now,

creeping forwards on all fours, edging a little closer

every time I blink… I don’t think

I can stay awake much longer…


Dying in this fading, hoar-frost half light

I cannot help but wonder through the night

Have I made you proud of me? Have I achieved

All you hoped and dreamed I would? Whenever I could

I reached out with my claw and scraped it red and raw

Against the ice I came to find. But my craw

Remains as dry tosol as it was when I arrived,

My hungry TEGA stomachs grumble still,

Filled not with precious proof that Mars was once

A home for life but clogged with cloying dirt

That rattles inside me mockingly

As the polar wind blows through my body

Like a ghost – a reminder I am already in my grave…


And now, as the sullen sun sets again I start

To hear and see strange things: is that the yapping

And yipping of dogs or just the cracking

Of my slowly splintering wings?

On the far horizon there- a ragged line of men

In frozen-fur hoods and heavy, dragging boots?

I see their birds nest beards clotted with frost

As they heave heir creaking sleds, crump-crumping through

The snow – no… no… they are just dust devils

Whirling past, taking one last pitying look

At the alien that fell out of their sky all those months

Ago, uninvited, and now lies close to death…


And I’m sure there is no ghostly figure

Standing by my side, and their frostbitten hand

– Cocooned inside a seal-fur glove –

Is not really resting on my shoulder, but as I shiver

Uncontrollably I can half believe I hear

The voice of Shackleton – no stranger

To ice and cold – speaking soft into my ear…


I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out

into the unknown. The only true failure… would be not to explore at all.”


… and with those words I lay my heavy head

down upon the frosty ground, to the sound

of my own heartbeat slowing down,

and close my tired eyes one final time.

The last thing I see: a spark of pure blue light

Shining in the west, a blessed sight,

Burning with the gentle glow of six billion curious souls.

Some will remember me, I hope, and should your

restless eyes gaze at the starry sky and see Ares

Glinting ‘bove the trees then think of me,

And cast your mind back to these golsen

Glorious Days, when a Phoenix flew to Mars..!


© Stuart Atkinson 2008

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1 Response to Preparing To Sleep…

  1. Pingback: Phoenix… celebrating a brief life well lived… « Cumbrian Sky

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