When Spirit Was Free


Five terran years ago today, Spirit conquered her Everest.

Like stone sirens, their songs whispered on the dusty wind,

Husband Hill’s heady heights had called to her since Landing Day,

Pulled her onwards, onwards… Crossing Gusev’s geological graveyard,

That dream-destroying bone dry plain was just the start of her ascent,

Adirondack and Humphrey, we can see now, mere pauses-for-breath

Before beginning her historic climb past ancient outcrops

Of crumbling rock and up valleys bathed in the marmalade glow of sunset.

Stones cracking beneath her slipping wheels, she heaved herself

Up the El Capitan slope of Husband Hill until finally, finally

She was standing in the cathedral silence of the summit –

Beneath her now: the achingly-beautiful Big Country of Barsoom,

Painted a thousand different shades and hues of red.

Over there – a dust devil, whirling its way across the plain,

Waltzing to martian music no human ears will ever hear;

On all sides, wrapping round her horizon – more hills and mountains,

Never to be conquered but no less lovely for that.

And far, far below, Homeplate.

On that gloriously carefree day, no hint of how closely

Spirit’s fate was tied to that innocent-looking place;

No clue that down there, beside that gateau-layered cap

Of stone cruel Mars, envious of Spirit’s triumph, had set a trap…

That is where Spirit stands today, held fast as a fly in amber,

In a sleep so deep not even whales could reach her dreams,

Leaving us to count the days until she wakes and shakes

The dust clods from her weary wheels and starts to make

Her way across the face of Mars again…

© Stuart Atkinson 2010

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