Phoenix I was named, and tomorrow
I will finally taste and fly in flame!
Screaming through the martian sky, the light
of my arrival will be bright enough
to put to shame the twin moons’ gloomy glow,
and should those weary rovers far below me
lift their dust-dimmed eyes towards the stars
they’ll see me slicing through their heaven, far
brighter and more glorious than any mere meteor.
And I, wrapped in great flapping sheets
of flame – Barsoom’s own Beowulf, riding
the raging dragon of Entry and Descent –
will cry out loudly “I am here!”
I do not fear the landing; nor do I waste
my time with worries of the million ways
my mayfly life could end before I even reach
the frozen ground. If I fail, my broken body found
a hundred years from now,
an almost-not-there stain upon Green Valley’s
barren floor my story will still be
one of victory, for I was never meant to fly;
if Fate had smiled on others meant
to touch the face of Mars I would not even
have been born, and my eyes and hands
and feet would all have flown elsewhere.
But here I am! And as Mars looms ever larger
up ahead my dream-dulled head begins
to fill with thoughts of with what I’ll see
tomorrow, when these gritty, sleep-filled eyes
of mine awake and open for the first time.
An endless open plain of ochre stone, painfully
bare, with just a lonely, frost-fringed rock
placed here and there to catch my roving eye?
Or will great boulders stand nearby,
high enough to hide the far horizon from
my view? I’ll know this, and more, soon…
One thing I will never know is
The brittle beauty of a starry martian sky.
From my valley home, so close to the gateau-layered pole,
Sol will circle me like a long lost bird;
never rising, never setting,
a molten metal ball rolling ‘round the rim
of my world as I stand alone
in the land of the Shrunken Midnight Sun,
watching my shadow sweep around me
for hour after endless, endless hour.
I shall be a sundial, marking time until I die.
Before then, my faithful friends, I long to show you wonders!
But if my flight ends in Mars’ air, and no word
is heard from me again then promise me you’ll send
another in my place, for there are secrets
and surprises here that cry out to be found,
and though I hope to dig beneath the frigid ground
to touch and taste the water there I know
Mars has destroyed more of my kind
than it has granted life. So lift your eyes
up to the sky, and as these final tortuous hours tick by
wish me nothing more than peace, and
keep me company as I sleep.
© Stuart Atkinson 2008