Background Noise


Lying in my bed at night,

curtains drawn, eyes shut tight

I’ve always heard noises in the dark.


As a child, while Lovell mourned

for his “lost Moon” my bedroom

was a nightmare zoo.

As lights went out, each creak

the snapping beak of some ripped-ragged bird

became, trapped behind the wardrobe doors,

cawing to get out.

Each quiet tap to me the rap of a mad troll,

gnawing through the floor

with rotten teeth to claw its way

through bed and then through me


Now older, and other, bolder noises keep me

company when working day turns into restless night

– but leave me puzzled.

Books – just like the poster – told me

there’s no air “Out There” to carry the sound

of a scream, and yet in 4am’s uranium-heavy

silence I swear I hear the soundtrack

of the universe playing in my mind…


I hear the weak excuse for a martian wind a’whistling,

blowing through poor hobbled Spirit’s chassis,

dust pinging off her frost-nipped NavCam eyes

and grinding through her gears.

Her spiked wheels scrunch, punching

through the duricrust as she hauls herself

past Homeplate’s hunchbacked crest to rest

at Low Ridge Haven for a while.


I hear the tones of doomed red stones thwacking

and cracking as countless times a Sol they fall

past Marineris’ cathedral-tall walls,

Mars’ mighty cliffs crumbling before our eyes,

wearied by time,  weakened by the weight

of all our hopes and dreams

for a Barsoom we might one day see

as Home…


Even with head buried beneath my pillow

I hear the thunder roll, whale-slow,

through Jupiter’s phlegm-thick clouds,

each Armageddon-bright lightning flash

accompanied by a soul-butchering groan

that shakes me like a leaf. No belief

in heaven when I hear that sound, just Hell

with volume and brightness both on “high”.


If I strain I can hear raindrops

fall on Titan’s methane-wave shaped shores;

fat and full, they drench the dusty,

rippled plains before returning to the sky,

leaving just a darkening stain again

where a deep lake used to lie

and tholin-smothered Huygens

rests in its Riverbed That Used To Be…


And in that yawning silence before dawn

I hear the choirs of black holes sing,

feasting on gutted, guttering stars

rent asunder by their greedy gravities,

flensing the dappled chromospheres

from their cores like whale blubber,

sucking out their tortured souls

before swallowing their broken bodies whole…


Morning comes. I rise to the eerie, keening sound

of mournful Mercurian rocks, found only

in that  furnace world’s deepest holes,

splitting and shearing with the strain

of the blinding Sun rising, setting and rising again,

bathing them first in searing heat then lethal cold

until finally they can take no more

and shatter into shards of stony waste.


I hear it all.

Asleep at night or wide awake

and walking up the street

I hear it all.


Do you?


© Stuart Atkinson 2006

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