First Frost


There it is. A frosting of fairy dust

covering the rust-red rocks

with a shimmering quilt of blue;

Tinkling and twinkling in the martian twilight,

like a billion tiny fireflies have settled

on the frozen ground… But Phoenix hears

no sound of fluttering wings, no cicadas singing

at the sky, just the dry-bone snap of ancient stones

cracking like thin ice in the migraine light

of another marmalade dawn…


Staring at our screens, seeing the hoarfrost gleaming

we smiled, thinking how the landing site

would soon be Wenceslass White, an icy

martian Narnia shining with a million diamonds’ light.

But Phoenix, staring at the same, frost-flecked plain

felt just the pain that comes with knowing death is near

and creeping closer; a rising tide of lethal cold

that will first lap at her feet then climb to coat

her shivering body in a deadly rime,

bringing to an end her too-brief life on Mars…


© Stuart Atkinson August 2008

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