From Fire to Ice…


Throughout history and myth my kind

have always loved and lived in fire.

Screeching creatures with feathers ablaze,

breathing and bathing in flickering flames,

born in infernos of orange and gold…

but I am the first Phoenix ever to feel cold,

the first to stand on ice instead of ash

and watch Earth dash across an alien sky,

all memory of warmth fading away

as legends always do.


Unlike the Twins that came before me,

galloping giddily round Gusev and veering

without fear around Victoria’s ragged edge

I will not rush wildly o’er this frozen land but,

like a statue hewn from Barsoom’s polar ice, stand

and watch the sols go by in serene and stately silence.

I will scale no ancient hills but thrill to the sight

of a molten gold Sun burning in a burnt umber sky,

watch starlight dancing off Mars’ hoarfrosted wastes,

smile at Earth blazing like a lantern, guiding me

through the darkest borealis night

towards another lavender dawn.


No. Once settled I shall not move from here.

I have no spiked and whirring wheels to steer

me round outcrops or over rippling dunes,

my view will never change: sol after sol

my cameras will take sepia-tinted portraits

of the same Sun-blasted rocks, same impact-shocked

stones and boulders bare.

Unlike mere horizon-chasing MERs, which cannot

concentrate on Mars’ terrain for longer than one day

I will stare out with my unblinking eyes

across the same high latitude landscape until I die,

savouring the slight shifting of the light,

the subtle, silky hues each hour of the sol

this planet chooses to reveal to me, payment

for being peaceful and not tearing up its land

with tracks into open wound trenches.

I have no wheels to peel back Mars’ flesh,

to flense it like a whale…










What will I find? What will I see?

Such things are mysteries to me as I stand

here, all alone, a Phoenix carved from Easter Island stone,

a firebird exiled to a frozen world, my

glittering silicon wings unfurled to

drink heat from a distant star

allowing me to dig with talon and claw

into the planet’s desiccated dirt in search

of ice to thaw and drink, quenching Man’s thirst

for knowledge of how Life may once have

thrived on this distant, dusty place.

So, curious children of Earth, turn your faces

to the sky and think of me, send me

images of fire and flame to warm

my frost-bitten feathers and face

as I begin another day…


Phoenix I may well be named but

as fleeting as a butterfly’s will be my life;

one sad sol, when my work here is done

the dimming Sun will grow too cold and low

to let me live, and with one final fractured

view of Mars through my fading eyes

I’ll fall into a sleep as deep and dark

as Ultreya’s shifting sands, never to see

the salmon sky or glitter stars again.

Condemned to endless years of exile

at the pole, layers of snow and ice will cover me,

smothering me, age after age until all trace of me

has gone, leaving me embedded in the white, as fine

and fragile as the crystals in a geode’s core

and just as perfectly concealed…


And yet… perhaps millennia from now, if Mars’

distant children somehow turn this rusted, dusted world

into a globe of glowing, growing green I’ll see

the Sun again and, emerging from my icy tomb

like David from Michelangelo’s marble womb,

rejoice at the touch of warm human hands once more,

and this phoenix will feel Sol’s loving fire again…!



© Stuart Atkinson 2007

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