Messenger’s Memories


See, below me – a new landscape neither

wet and wide human eyes

or robots’ glass and metal minds

have ever seen before.

In all directions sputtering chains

of coffee cup stain stone rings;

endless venn diagrams of thin

and rocky ranges, strange talon-sharp mountains

moulded from donkey-grey, razor-backed rock,

all born in the shockwaves of planet-shattering impacts,

countless asteroids and comets smacking

into Mercury’s pale face

like an angry god’s great fist,

each hit leaving a charcoal-shaded bruise

behind on its aching, sun-baked cheek…


This weary world has been assaulted

by the very Sun herself. Time

has tortured it, abused its body

with a hail of screaming stones.

Each crater and pit was once a bubbling

lava bowl, a broiling witches’ cauldron

of meteor-melted magma, malevolently

glowing, growing brighter and brighter

in the cold Mercurian night until brutal sunlight

baked their heaving crusts in place,

replacing swift Hermes’ perfect face

with a pockmarked mask of scars…


Now El Capitan cliffed rupes snake around and up

and down those ancient crater walls, their long shadows

crawling and falling over wide and wrinkled floors

that dwarf all glories on Earth’s Moon.

“There can’t be room for any more!” I’m sure you thought

when my first close-ups lit your screens,

but now you see a cosmic pox has has ruined Hermes’ looks;

he took a savage beating after birth.


But what of Great Caloris?

“Where is the inner Solar System’s greatest wound?”

I heard some groan as those first images

returned. Expecting jagged, rippled rings,

a cataclysm-carved scar, they saw only

a pale stain, a patch of pearly-white against

the planet’s ashen grey; dappled here and there

with spots and smaller rings of smoky,

dusty hue – new craters within Caloris’

epic bowl, reduced to lonely, lowly spots

of frosted white by the high Sun’s savage light.

In the months and years to come I’ll share with you

a better view, I swear: Great Caloris will be

a gaping gunshot wound in Mercury’s

furrowed forhead, but ‘til then instead

you’ll know it as a mere memory of mayhem,

an unknown wonder on a solar-wind baked stone…


And so farewell swift Hermes, I flee

from thee, my first glimpse of your secret

lands already just a memory, lost

a million miles behind me as I fall

towards the Sun. Now, my work here done

I shall embrace the endless dark again,

relishing the brittle taste of space’s icy cold

after these first famous, furnace days.


© Stuart Atkinson 2008

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