Ansel Adams on Mars

















He would love this place, embrace its rocks

And stones with all his artist’s heart.

With a new sunlit peak for each day of the week;

A different crumbling canyon for every

Martian month; enough nation-dwarfing volcanoes

To see him through a lifetime of plates and film,

This planet-sized Yosemite would be his playground.


If he was here today what would he make

Of MRO’S portraits of this cold, ochre world?

Would he sneer “Too colourful!”? Perhaps;

There are no cloud-eviscerating redwoods here;

No verdant squares of fir or pine embroidered lovingly

On this landscape’s quilt, only brutal, beautiful

Geology; just naked rock, raw stone,

Carved into ledges and layers, pinnacles and peaks

By Time’s patient hands, all standing tall and

Statue still for the past 4 billion years; already old

Before the first dinosaur was even born…


Imagine Adams on the summit of Husband Hill,

A gold rush grandpa, with a wise prospector’s eyes

And a wire wool beard shaded by a battered

Ridgetop hat, waiting for the light,

Delighting in the dervish dust devils

Whirling far below his feet; waiting, waiting

For that fleeting moment when Nature tosses back

Her hair, stares into the lens and purrs “Now…!”


Not hard to imagine him on Marineris’ edge,

Setting up his faithful tripod in the sol’s fading

Light, its legs clack-a-clacking as Phobos sprints

Overhead, a lantern hurled across the sky by

Some angry god. So easy to close one’s eyes

And see him standing on Ganges’ floor at dawn,

Watching ice cold sunlight creeping slowly

Up the mighty canyon’s walls, flowing

Towards him from the east in a tsunami

Of shine with a golden syrup glow…


Perhaps he walks Mars now, his restless spirit

Flitting here and there? Those avalanches,

Caught by HiRISE, sloughing off the high polar cliffs…

Were they triggered by Adams wandering

Too close to the chasm edge,

Almost losing his footing, his track-worn boots

Sending tonnes of ice and dirt and snow

Plummeting to the ground below?

Perhaps the faerie-breath wafts of air

That drift across the dusty plains

Are made by his ghost’s footsteps as it treks

In search of viewpoints new,

To’ing and fro’ing across Barsoom,

Pursuing the perfect light, that Just Right

Moment when tone and shade finally agree

And the picture screams out “Take me!”


© Stuart Atkinson 2010

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