On Atlas’ Shoulders


To their visor-shielded eyes as they approach me –

their gaze constantly drawn away by Saturn’s

swirled-syrup clouds and icy, jewelled rings – I’ll seem

a thing bizarre; a saucer-shaped albino freak

drifting meekly through the dark, peeking

at the planet’s pastel-painted face from the safety

of ring-shadows wide enough to swallow worlds…


But when Sol rises from behind – then blazes above –

my peaks they will see me as I really am: proud and noble

Atlas, a Titan’s tortured son, born in ice and dust,

a hoarfrost-crusted starstone left weary beyond words

from carrying the sky upon hunched shoulders

of ancient rock and boulders, draped by layers of ring-snow

folded over and over and over…


Finally, after a nervous landing they will stand on me,

turn their visors to the sky – but see only black:

Saturn’s sulking, bulging bulk an ink stain

on the star-sewn cloth of night, an Ultreyan

abyss in the sky spotted here and there by flashbulb

lightning sparks against the darkness; fluttering

auroral flames playing round its poles while his rings,

a razor-thin blade of flaming, brittle light, slice him clean in two –


– until finally bright Sol appears, spears of light

stabbing out from behind Saturn’s great curved limb for

a heartbeat before the star itself explodes into view.

A nuclear fireball of purest white, God’s floodlight

shining on my landscape! No escape now from

the Truth: they stand upon a tiny world, an ice grain

whirling round a whale, pale and frail against its side…


Look, they’ll cry – snow! and staring at the sky

will see a billion firefly specks drifting through the high

vault of the heavens; playful faeries flitting in the light

of Saturn’s sudden dawn, each flickering flake

a refugee fleeing from the planet’s rings;

too-small-to-fall-in-anything-but-silence things

that on their own are nothing, but over aeons

have gathered round me like a skirt of dirty lace…


And golluming over me, belly-sliding over the crumping snow

they’ll know, and feel it in their brittle bones that gravity is but

a memory here, out where the air is thick with flakes

of Saturn’s Death Star’d moon…


© Stuart Atkinson 2007

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