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

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