Farewell Phoenix


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

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