Farewell Phoenix

26 05 2010


We listened and listened, straining our electronic ears,

Hoping against hope to hear a single, simple tone from you;

A whispered note phoned home against all the odds –

But heard nothing.

And now HiRISE has shown us why: sometime

In the martian winter, buried beneath a brutal crush

Of cold you folded in your fragile wings one final time

And, with tiny, hoarfrost-crusted heart beating feebly

In the fading light, you died.

Lazarus would not be rising after all.

Fitting that a creature forged and born in fire

Should end its days entombed in ice, but sad

For those of us who kept you company as you sat

Statue-still on Mars through those lonely

Polar months. No roving for you, no daily new views

Of mountains high and craters deep, no steep

Slopes to climb; your dinner plate feet did not creep

A single inch away from where they first set down

Upon the frosty, rocky ground.

But we still loved you.

Our memories of your candle-flame life

Are bright but bitter sweet: that first sight

Of water ice – scraped flakes of alien blue-white

Glinting in the shadows of a trench…

Oven doors refusing to open, stubborn as an ox,

Resisting all attempts to pry them apart…

Precious, priceless dirt dumped onto grilles,

Clumping like porridge when it should have

Poured through the wires like wine…

That one-in-a-billion shot of you caught flying

Over Heimdal, parachute trailing behind…

All ancient history now, all magic moments

Lost in Time. Sleep now, and wait for that far

Far future day when gloved hands lift you from your

Resting place and carry you to the Great

Museum of Mars, healing your snapped wing

And standing you, with pride, beside

The Vikings, Rovers and broken Beagle bits,

Where you belong.

© Stuart Atkinson 2010

Titan Rising

25 05 2010


Imagine witnessing this sight with your own wide eyes:

Wondrous Enceladus reduced to a mere dark dome,

Its deep-in-shadow south pole black as a Mordor midnight.

Of its famed plumes and spumes of precious watery spray –

No sign; its Death Star trench Tiger Stripe

Sulci hidden from Cassini’s view. Only Titan

Looming overhead, its fingernail-clipping thin

Crescent a faintly glowing scythe blade of light

Shining dully in the cold, Enceladean night.

And between the two the silver sword blade

Of The Rings, an icy dagger pushed close

Against Titan’s trembling throat,

Drawing beads of methane blood

Whilst cutting the very sky in two…

© Stuart Atkinson 2010


Illustrated version: http://twitpic.com/1qzgqo

On The Beach

8 05 2010



Oppy appears to stand now upon a bone-dry beach,

But nothing here mirrors an Earthly sea-shore scene.

No paperback-shading clouds; no sounds

Of sunburned children screaming, knee-high in

Surging surf; no peace-shattering yaps

From frisbee-catching dogs leaping

Through the air without a care in the world…

There are no shards of coloured shell here;

No shrivelled Mermaids’ Purses to pop;

No torn-off-at-the-shoulder seagull wings, bleached

By the merciless rays of the summer holiday Sun…

Just dust, dust, dust, long meandering mounds

Of it, great cinnamon dunes of it, snaking to

And fro, painted a dozen different shades of red

And brown: Arrakis come to life with Wormsign

On all sides and no chance of escape,

No rocky capes for brave Paul and Jessica

To leap up onto in just the nick of time…

Surely Oppy is a Fremen now..? Surely her pan-

And navcam eyes glow bright Spice blue at night?

And on the far horizon – Hills,

Beckoning us, calling out to us,

Singing siren songs of clay rich rocks

And “iconic image” views.

So far away, those distant, dusty peaks,

That Mars will sweep at least half way around

The Sun once more before our braveheart

Rover rolls into their shadow –

If she reaches them at all, for each sol she wakes

Now is another Great Escape,

Another celebration of cheating Death

On the solar system’s most robot-hating world.

Distance makes those mighty mountains modest.

From here they look shrunken, small,

The upturned, rusted hulls of ancient martian supertankers.

Or is this part of Meridiani the graveyard

Of the glorious sand ships that once skimmed thru

This desert’s dusty dunes in Bradbury’s brilliant mind?


© Stuart Atkinson May 2010