One day she’ll stand in a museum. Silent. Still.
A spot-lit, space age statue in a heroic pose:
Wheels stopped, arm outstretched like ET’s;
Blunted RAT finger poking at the model meteorite
Positioned at her feet, labelled “The original Mackinac
Can be found in the gallery down the hall”.
One day she’ll be a curiosity, something you simply
Must see on your visit to the Great Museum of Mars.
Willow-limbed, pale skinned martian kids
On school trips will crowd round her, laughing
And shouting, leaning too far over the barrier
That protects her from the world – their
Sticky fingers pawing the air, perilously close
To her polished back, daring each other: “Do it!” –
While camera- and guidebook-clutching Terran tourists,
“Doing Mars”, sigh frustrated sighs, fighting
For a glimpse of The Old Girl through the heaving sea
Of bony martian shoulders, eventually deciding to give
Up and try again later when the red rats have all gone.
“Come on, Viking 2’s just over there, by the gift shop…”
One day historians from all across Sol’s system
Will come to worship at her wheels. With
The Great Museum sealed off from the little people
They’ll circle her like vultures, eyes picking
The flesh from her bones, her roaming days
The stuff of legend in their age of space elevators,
Lunar cities and galleons with solar sails:
How she went down into Victoria… how she braved
The Days of Endless Dust… epic tales
To rival the trials of Heracles in their 22nd century.
“But… she is so small,” they’ll whisper, as if afraid
to hurt her feelings, “she looks more like a toy…”
But today… today she is a giant, and she drives.
Today the wide-open sky above her back
Is rose-washed tangerine; today the only spotlight
Is the Sun. Today she is a rover, rolling, rolling,
Crunch-a-scrunching over Meridiani’s slabs of sedimentary
Crazy paving, billion year old rocks popping
Beneath her wheels. Today she is exploring,
The ghosts of da Gama and Drake, Lewis and Clark.
Shackleton and Magallen walk softly beside her.
Today she is alive!
© Stuart Atkinson 2010