The first time I open my sleep-heavy eyes
what alien landscape will curve around me?
A Barsoomian Narnia, with petrified fields
of snow-capped rocks and lonely frost-cracked
boulders, standing boldly beneath the glaring arctic Sun
like shrunken Easter Island statues?
Or will there be no stones to see, just an endless plain
of pale polygons stretching like a crumpled quilt
to the horizon, each icy lily pad a stepping stone
leading my startled eyes to a sky higher and wider
than any ever seen on Mars before..?
I wonder… will that sky be white – a mirror of Old Earth’s
bright Antarctic heaven? – or will it shine with a polished
metal hue, a cathedral-ceiling dome of brittle silver-blue
dwarfing every ridge and rock and stone cupped
in Green Valley’s gentle hands? Perhaps the frigid land
chosen to be my frozen tomb will stand silent
beneath a sea of blushing, perfect pink? Whichever
colour wins, will I witness wind-teased, lacy clouds
racing overhead, chasing each other like children at play,
mocking me with their faerie grace and speed
while I stare up at them helplessly;
my clumsy, manhole cover feet rooted to the frozen ground
as if I were a tree and they were birds?
Around the shrunken Sun I imagine a ring
of hoarfrost-on-Holly fire;
a perfect circle of Mother of Pearl light,
the crowning glory of the first
arctic martian sunset ever seen by Man.
On either side: a soft-edged slice of rainbow;
known as “sundogs” on Old Earth
the first Barsoomians shall call them
“Deja” and “fair Thuvia” in tribute
to the martian maids who stole John
Carter’s heart with just a sigh. And close by,
perhaps, an azure spark – Earth,
glinting as a sapphire gleams
when held up to the Moon until, too soon,
she drops into the burning dusk,
her flickering flame snuffed out…
And when my metal monkey paw claws at the
ground beneath my feet, what sight will greet
me as its dust and dirt are wrenched
and torn apart? Within that long-awaited trench
will my eyes spy only lines of old Noachian ice
or layers of “Can it be..?” green? Will My Mars be
as dead as the burial plains of Sagan’s hero Vikings,
or will my graphs whisper “There is Life here…”?
Soon I will know; soon my eyes
will open on a breathtaking new world,
and though no flag will I unfurl
to flutter and fly o’er Green Valley’s
frigid floor, on Landing Day I’ll stake a claim for
All Mankind, declaring in bold Shakespearean tones:
“We shall know no rest ‘til we have found Life here!”
and slowly, but surely, I’ll play my role in that great Quest.
© Stuart Atkinson 2008