Rover In Wonderland


Welcome to Concepcion.

This is where I finally found My Mars;

The place where I would, if I could,

 – with a snicking click of my fingers –

Transport myself to; the place where I would find

John Boone’s Barsoom, with its butterscotch sky

And twin hurtling moons.

Here is where I’d plant my boots in the dust.

Breaking through the ancient duricrust

I’d look down at my footprints, reliving

That childhood thrill of pressing bare and sunburned toes

Into wet beach sand beside the sea.

But no iridescent shells here; no scuttling crabs

Or white-capped waves pushing and pulling,

Hissing and skrishing off to my side.

Surrounded by all these slabs of shattered

Crazy paving I’d feel more like a soot-stained wartime

Orphan, standing in the rubble of what used

To be my home. Stones like broken bricks and pieces

Of pot would lie all around me; dark rays of cinnamon-

Coloured chips and shards spraying away

On all sides, their sharp edges shining bright

In the deep desert sunlight…

Here: some stones that look like leering gargoyles

Fallen from high cathedral ledges

To shatter on Meridiani’s sun-baked floor.

Closer – the “Chocolate Hills”, two loaves

Of stale old bread, covered with a flaking

Leprous crust of who-knows-what.

Over there: other rocks, more rounded, smooth and dark;

Henry Moore sculptures stolen from their Terran parks

And pathways, rescued from the marker pens

And knives of vandals to spend

The rest of their days standing sentinel-silent on Mars.

To some, this youthful wound, barely an aeon old,

May look like the aftermath of a mad bull’s

Charge through Meridiani’s finest china shop, but

This is the Wonderland Alice would have found

Down the rabbit hole if she had been a snow-white

Spacesuit-clad geologist, and not a blue-dress-

And-apron wearing schoolgirl. No dusty bottles

Labelled “Drink me!” here, but a million rust-

Hued rocks whispering on the wind “Pick me up!”

And “Lift me”…

© Stuart Atkinson 2010

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