The First


You’re out there. Somewhere.

The First.

Somewhere, right now, taking tiny,

microscopic breaths; waiting

patiently to be found; biding your time,

as You’ve always done,

ever since the Sun

was just a glint in the Universe’s eye.


Maybe you’re on Mars, inside

or hiding beneath a rock, many rocks,

exiled by the lethal blue-leeched sky

to a world of damp and dark,

A crystalline, Noachian dungeon where

“water” is just a scent and Time runs slow:

one billion sols… two billion sols…

between each breath a billion more…


Or do you live upon Europa’s icy lands?

Across that criss-crossed cross-

hatched crust do you huddle in puddles

of Jupiter-warmed water, blue and green

oases of What Could Have Been

had your world been closer to

the star that leers, lantern-bright,

from your moon-infested sky?


Do you flit and skitter through the waters

deep beneath the cold carapace, floating

through the gloom like a star through space,

a dust mite drifting thru the vast cathedral

of Creation, past pillars of hardened hoarfrost,

all beneath a yawning, coloured ceiling

of life-stained, stained-glass ice..?


Or do You cling in terror to the trembling slopes

of black smokers on that ocean’s odd floor,

huddling there for warmth and nutrient

chemical scraps tossed contemptuously from

its table, devouring its begrudged black bounty,

knowing each meagre morsel may be your last?

Through breaks in the broiling black clouds

that passes for your air do You glimpse the sky?


If Jupiter is barren, could the many whirling worlds

of pastel-painted Saturn conceal You from our eyes?

Do You lurk high in Titan’s smog-fat atmosphere,

joyfully flying through its billowing

methane mountain clouds before falling in slow-motion,

dropped and plopped onto the dune-streaked plains

in a pat-pat-patter of thick organic rain?

Blind, do you look up and sense the razor-edge rings

slicing the sky, and Saturn, into two?


Or is frigid azure Enceladus your Saturn-circling home?

Sheltering in the thawed-out folds

of her Tiger Stripe oases are you deafened by the howls

and screams of the geysers vomiting ice and

clinking, twinkling crystals into space?

Or, having been ejected, days or aeons ago,

are you cocooned now in an icy shell, tormented

every orbit by your ring’s-eye view of Home?


Drifting round that gushing moon, entombed,

are You lost in a blizzard of cell-streaked snowflakes,

trillions of tiny lifepods, tossed out to tumble

endlessly through space, eyeing Iapetus, teasing Tethys…

As Time and Evolution both silently pass by, casting you

not even a curious backwards glance as they continue

on their way, will you weep bitter tears for what you

might have become if they had paused awhile, and let you grow..?


You are a stealth payload, perhaps; hidden inside one

of the Universe’s ultimate weapons, a

Life Bomb comet, a bacteria-soaked iceberg,

dark as night, mighty as a mountain

that falls on newborn, barren worlds

and jolts their sleeping hearts awake

with cosmic shock and awe; a weapon of

Mass Creation that everyone can find.


Wherever you are found, when we first see You

– with our own wet, water filled eyes, or through

dry silica lenses of a droid despatched to track

you down? – the world will gasp, then rejoice,

then drunkenly drink in the meaning

of the strange… little… thing… circled crudely

on the “historic discovery image” by some shaking,

shaken tech, or pale, Net-dwelling Morlock.


The next day: your picture, everywhere,

plastered ‘cross papers, magazines and pc screens

in every land on Earth; within three days more

recognised than any footballer’s reed-thin wife

or moody movie star. In college halls,

on white lab walls your grainy, pixel-painted portrait

will be raised and praised as proof

that Life Will Find A Way.



And yet, while some rejoice, other voices

will speak against You, sneering, dismissing

You as a mere bug, pointing out how every step

on terra’s fields or grim, gum-stained sidewalks

massacres millions of your kin, yet we never pause

to mourn their loss; countless billions more are swilled away,

they’ll say, with each flush of our toilets, or doomed to die in

tatty tissues if we should catch a common cold…


But they miss the point. For finding You

will mean that we are not The Only, or were even

The First; that Life, once thought a chemical

slapstick joke, a clowning cosmic fluke

is a process, a practical, celestial “And Then”

subroutine, looping through the Universe’s

Basic program without Stop or Exit signs.

Ironic, for a virus, or a worm.


Finding You will mean much greater

chance that there are Empires in our sky;

that whale-sized ships of light and

gleaming gold ply the silent  seas between

the stars themselves with alien Magellans

and Columbus’s at their helms, navigating

nebulae  and neutron stars as boldly

as Cook hauled his keel ‘round rending rocks and stones.


Once recovered, brought Home in chains

we will peer and leer at you. First through microscopes,

blinding you with terrifying light, then prod

and push and poke at you, uneasily, warily,

still worried, deep inside – despite our scientific

minds screaming “We are safe!” – that you may yet

unleash some planet-wasting plague

upon our lovely, lonely world…


Finding You will change everything – and nothing.

The world’s wearies will still trudge to work,

walk their dogs, bathe their kids and queue for bread

and milk, live their lives with tired eyes to the ground..


And yet…


If they should look up on clear and starry nights they’ll know,

and feel, that they are Not Alone; that they share the Void

above their heads and round their heavy hearts with Others,

even if they are only fragile, paint-fleck flakes of Life…





You’re out there.



I can feel you…




© Stuart Atkinson 2006

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