COLUMBUS’ GHOST

Unseen by weary Opportunity as she stares

Down at pale plates of wind-etched, once-wet stone,

The ghost of Columbus glides past, striding

Towards Santa Maria, sword swinging at his side,

His shadow cast o’er the rock-strewn ground

By the low, cold Sun.

No damp deck rolls below him; no

Tide-tortured timbers squeak beneath

His heels; his sea spray stained boots

Crump and crunch through bone dry duricrust now,

With rust-hued boulders, named after his

Famous crew, scattered all around like statues…

Finally he stands at the crater’s crumbling edge,

Stares out across the ancient impact scar

And smiles. The far horizon is as flat as his

Beloved sea – a razor sharp line scored between

The epic butterscotch sky and wide open, Big Country

Plain of ancient Meridiani.

Through his Santa Maria’s creaking rigging

He saw a heaven high and impossibly blue;

But this landscape’s roof has no snow white

Cirrus clouds, no flocks of brightly-painted birds

Cawing and wheeling in the sun.

This dominating dome knows no azure hints or tints;

Nature’s brush rushed to paint all ochre here…

Yet over there, beneath the sepia eastern sky,

Dark mountains catch his explorer’s eye.

The Endeavour range is low, and long,

An island chain rising from an ocean of stone

And wind-whipped dust… and it calls to him,

Beckons him onwards as a strange horizon has always done –

He vanishes, blown away by an icy martian breeze,

Leaving Opportunity to scratch at the rocks

Beneath her wheels, seeking signs of ancient water

On the new New World…

© Stuart Atkinson 2011

You can find an illustrated version of this poem here:

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