Seven years ago, a few sols apart, two shooting stars,

Bright as falling angels, pierced an alien cinnamon-hued night,

Dropping onto Barsoom robot Lewis and Clarks

Which have now spent more time ‘alive’ on Mars

Than on Earth and have shown us more of Ares

Than even Bradbury dared to dream:

The Columbia Hills, conquered, glowing gold

In the mid-day marmalade light;

Meteorites glinting in the distance

On the very edge of sight;

Rocks the shape of sharks’ teeth,

Fossilised brains and bears; layers

Of ancient stone piled storeys-high

Beneath a crater’s crumbling edge;

Dust as dark as powdered coal blown

Into folds and waves; a midnight sky ablaze

With stars after another ‘longest drive’ day –

And Earth, the distant Homeworld, reduced

To a sapphire sequin that fades, fades, fades…

Strange and humbling to think

The far future Mars will be a true New World,

A world just as wonderful as ours,

With its own poets and pilgrims, generals

And gentlemen; navies will clash on its terraformed

Seas while screaming armies swarm over Olympus’ heights;

Tortured songwriters will sit on obsidian roofs,

Kicking at martian moss and staring into a twin moon sky;

And lovers will stand on a canyon’s crumbling edge

At dawn, yawning, watching the ice blue Sun rise

Through the Marineris mists and ‘kiss’

Through their visors’ dust-etched glass…

As the aeons pass Mars will have

A million Emperors and kings; a hundred thousand

Bloody wars will be fought over great

And little things; nations will rise and heroes

Will fall, Terra’s Tale told all over again.

But as long as a single heart beats on Barsoom

No-one will ever forget the names

Spirit” and “Opportunity”.

Wild-haired Cydonian composers will pen

Soul-stirring symphonies inspired by them.

Families will follow their legendary routes

Across the lonely deserts of Mars;

Walk in their vanished-long-ago tracks;

Pose for pictures beside Wopmay; edge slowly

Down into Duck Bay to touch Cape Verde’s

Vandalised Stone, perhaps scratching into it

Graffiti of their own…

But for now they are ours,

They belong to us – the rover-hugging horde,

The fans whose hands dance over the keyboards

Of computers in bedrooms and dens, offices

And schools, around the world, waiting

Breathlessly for the next download of raws, all

Hopelessly in love with the rust- and ochre-painted

World that is the rovers’strawberry-sanded wonderland.

© Stuart Atkinson 2010

For a colour poster version of this poem, created by my great friend Glen Nagle, go here:

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