Conjunction Dream…


Ten thousand weary years from now,

Beneath a cloud-wrapped violet sky,

With albatross’s crying out in Phobos’

Bony light a boat bobs gently on Meridiani;

Riding the slapping waves that lap and lick

In melancholy slow martian motion

O’er its bows, now and then

Its crew of stick-limbed men and women

Stare down into the silent depths and smile.

Far, far below, they know, a crater lies,

Its size – once vast, gasped at by

Pre-martians on their flickering screens

Seems a mere MER fable now, yet

Half a mile below their hull their friends explore Victoria.

Once a gargoyle-guarded jagged hole

Hacked from Barsoom’s brittle crust

Its scattered meteorite bones rust now,

Devoured by the ravenous piranha dust or buried

Beneath new martian reefs of scoured,

Powdered stone. A ghost of its former self;

Cabos Frio and Verde now crumbling shelves

From which brittle berries pour and hiss

In misty purple showers.

Unseen. Relentless.


Once a yawning, ragged-bordered pit

Victoria is a grit-masked phantom now.

Shrunk by millennia of slowly-settling

Silt that filled its famous bays and coves

Like snowflakes falling on Old Terra’s fields,

Its wind faerie-sculpted dunes, swooned

Over by the Image Mages of an earlier age

Too have long been sluiced away

By currents sweeping clean the ocean’s ochre floor.

And yet, those currents have been sculptors too,

Removing sludge and sand as softly as a hand

Or fine-haired brush, revealing treasures –


Now the Mars-born sailors cry “She’s there!”

And turn to stare out o’er the waves to where

Their friends have reappeared, fists punching the air

To celebrate their discovery and the recovery

Of Victoria’s most precious jewel.


Pulled up by shaking hands she breaks

The surface of the sea and stands above the waves,

Half-crazed, burning in the sudden, brutal sunlight

As water trickles impossibly from her face.

Floating there she gasps for air; expecting it to be

Vacuum-thin and light years beyond cold

She finds it thick and warm as soup.

The Truth breaks over her like a storm:

An Age has passed since last she saw the Sun;

Ten thousand times this world has wheeled around its star,

Changing hue as it flew; transforming, chameleon-like,

From blood-powdered, boulder-scattered stone

To a white-washed, emerald-toned globe until

Today Mars whirls as a world of aching cerulean beauty

Around ancient, distant Sol.

Oceans her antique basins fill now, fed

By fractured streams and fat drops of rain

That fall like stones from a heaven a richer shade

Of lavender than ever seen on green, green Earth.


Carried to the boat by gentle, reverent hands

Which lift her lovingly onto the pitching

Deck she stands there as water, fetid, thick and foul

With ten long aeons’ weight of silt

And sand pouring off and through her.

Wide, disbelieving eyes stare at her,

Pale-skinned faces edge closer as ocean-spill pools

Around her rusted wheels and she feels… lost.

This Blue Mars is not hers;

Victoria’s rocks are gone, its bold Beacon

And boulders drowned beneath ten thousand years

Of rain; nothing is the same,

She is an alien, an oddity doomed, after her resurrection,

To spend her second life bathed in lights

In some New Martian Museum,

Filed past by skeletal Syrtis girls

And boys, a mere antique clockwork toy

In their terrible, terraformed world.


No. She cannot – will not – live like that.

With the last ounce of her strength she wrenches

Free from her Rescuers’ grip and slips

Back beneath the waves to drown and sink again,

Sinking, thinking with her final fracturing thought

How warm Meridiani’s waters feel –



Blowing over her, past her,

Scratching and scraping

Her in a hail of hissing blades.

Above – a sky of peach and tan

Familiar as her own shadow;

Beneath – deep, deep Victoria,

Its floor a blanket of wind-stitched dunes

With boulders, rocks and rubble all around.

Solid ground, still, no lapping waves,

Just perfect Time-hewn stone..!

All where it should be.

All where it was.


Before Conjunction’s Dream…


© Stuart Atkinson 2006

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