Steve’s Farewell

7 12 2008

 

We are alone now, you and I.

The others, in their bunny suits,

burning blue flames against the tall, ice-white

walls have all gone, home to loved ones,

lost ones, beds and bedtime stories

and, eventually, perhaps, dreams…

I could not sleep, not tonight, for sleep

would mean leaving you here alone

in this cold and lonely place

before exiling you from Earth forever –

unless, in some far future kindly colonists

dust you off, crate you up and send you

home again to us…

To me

 

I watched you and your sister grow, from seeds

small as a thought to the things

of beauty you are now – tall and proud,

shining in this harsh, halogen-light,

waiting to be wrapped and packed, despatched

with all of Man’s inquisitive rage

to the Other World, that globe of stones

and bone dry fines which might,

when weary Earth has been bled dry,

one day become our Home.

Yet now, mere hours before you take

your leave of your proud parents, cocooned

inside your cushioned shroud,

some part of me screams “Stay!”

 

For there is danger there, my little traveller.

Others sent before you have been slain:

after leaving Earth to cheers and fanfare loud,

travelling through the void in innocent sleep

some smeared into glowing, ghastly trails,

brains dashed against Ares’ barely-there air;

others smashed to clouds of tinkling, twinkling

pieces, shattered metal, glass and dreams;

a few – swallowed whole like Jonah by Barsoom’s

cruel valleys, snow and seas of dust –

may wait there yet, wondering why

their plaintive cries have not been heard,

why no-one answered when they chirped

“I have arrived! What now..?”

 

Beware Gusev’s Darcy-dapper dust devils,

who will bow down before and flatter you with

cool requests to take their arm and dance.

Refuse them and their seductive songs, and live.

 

I envy you,

I fear for you

as I touch you one last time,

reach out with shaking, sterile hands

to feel the coldness of your skin;

wave frightened fingers slowly

past your shining, sightless eyes

that have never seen the Sun

just sun-bright bulbs, buzzing strip-lights,

highlights reflecting off flickering screens

and visors protecting the eyes

of we who dared imagine you,

then drew then built you, here,

in this day-less, night-less tomb.

 

Tomb? No, more a womb

for you are not yet born;

you will not breathe or move

or see or touch until this world

has curled halfway around the Sun

and you are on another.

But now, here, in these silent shadows

you are safe. The air, you breathe, scrubbed

& filtered clean is purer than angel breath, than love;

Here we have protected you, watched over you,

shielded you from the heat and horrors

of the world you soon will leave and,

looking back, will struggle to find

twinkling in Mars’ indigo dusk sky.

 

None of Earth’s warm, worm-mulched dirt

has ever  touched your wheels yet you will steal

soon across cloying clays Ages old when Earth was young.

Our sky, its puffball clouds and sunsets gold

will all be alien to you, sights you have never seen.

A blessing, perhaps: no memories of rain

-dripping trees or falling leaves will taunt

or haunt you as you rove that dust-choked world.

You cannot keen for Earth’s cool streams

if their clear waters have never eased your thirst.

Yet… strange, so strange, to think the first

time you feel Sol’s rays touch your face

they will have passed and warmed

my world before reaching yours…

 

I love you, yet hate you for the sights

and scenes that will greet your wide eyes

as you emerge, blinking, from your soft cocoon,

stretching out your wings.

Your first solbreak will be grapefruit pink;

your first noon sky warm honey, smeared

with swirls and whorls of silvered cloud.

In all directions, rocks, each one a treasured page

ripped out in rage from Mars’ autobiography,

scattered by its feeble winds to land in

or block your path or lodge inside your wheels.

Two moons will race and chase

each other ‘cross the sky, dull grey, cratered skulls

grinning at you, laughing as you struggle on your way.

 

So, farewell. I will watch you –

the world will watch you – as you trek across
the ancient crater’s floor, dwarfed both by

the sky and expectations of your kin.

 

I am already proud of you.

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2006

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