“Endeavour Revealed”

6 10 2011

 

Compared to almost-silent Opportunity,

Bunnell rode to his revelation in a cacophony

Of sound.  With his war horse heaving

And sweating beneath him, exhausted after their climb, 

Surely the surgeon heard his pioneer’s heart pounding;

His mount’s bellowing lungs a’huffing;

The sagging, rain-drenched leaves of the trees

On all sides sighing as he passed by;

And as he gulped in sharp, pine tar-coated

Air, far away, hidden beyond a hundred horizons,

The peaty waters of distant rivers, brooks and streams,

Tinkling…

 

With trembling fingers combing through

His bird’s nest of a beard as he neared

The End Of All That He Had Known Before,

Did he stop, look over the edge and,

Bewildered by his first glimpse of that

Violently beautiful vista, refuse to believe 

Nature was capable of such deceit,

Hiding such a heaven away?

 

Imagine – that very first view of a New World

Of wide-screen wonder!

Hard not to feel so small when faced

With such a fairyland of geology;

Easy to believe that, in the days after Terra’s

Bawling birth, God’s own hands

Reached down from heaven, dug deep into the

Land and wrenched it apart,

Leaving an impossible canyon behind,

Middle Earth brought to life before Tolkien

Had even imagined it: great, granite monoliths

Looming over a valley carpeted with forests

That splashed up against the mountains’ feet

Like Nature’s own tsunami,

All dwarfed by a preposterously-blue sky

Painted with clouds so perfect Constable would have cried.

 

With startled eyes wide as a Full Sierra Moon

How long did he swoon over that first view of Yosemite?

 

Today’s Bunnell has treads instead of booted feet;

It leaves no hoof- or footprints behind,

But twin vapour trails of dust and wheel-crushed rock.

Thus a crazy Mason-Dixon line has been laid across Meridiani

By Opportunity, meandering from Eagle Crater to,

Around and then past Victoria as she advanced relentlessly on Cape York.

Her sky is a cathedral dome painted pastel shades of orange, gold

And tan; all hints, all hopes of blue are banned,

Allowed to shine only for a while at dusk or dawn

Before fading out of sight.

And after each frigid rose petal-freezing night the Sun

Which rises from behind the eastern hills

Is just a cold, copper-coloured coin

Surrounded by a coffee cup stain halo,

Half-hearted rainbow sundogs shining on either side.

 

This is no lush Yosemite. No soul-stirring symphony of Life

Plays here; this landscape is hushed, silent.

The only sounds carried on the whispering wind

Are the popping of rocks beneath her wheels;

The occasional faint hiss of dust wafting

Over the sterile, fine-thick ground;

The tired, wheezing whine of her gears.

 

For the past hundred sols she has watched the skyline rise

And fall like an ocean tide, in turn hiding

And revealing just a little more of the humpback hills

That have called to her since she crawled around Victoria.

Now, she rolls serenely to a stop,

Impatient for the view as her horizon suddenly drops

Away like a magician’s velvet cloak, revealing…

Wonder!

 

Revealing –

 

Endeavour.

 

For endless, F5-filled months we have watched all Endeavour grow,

Always thinking “Will we..?”Always wondering, “Can she..?”

Now we are here. We have arrived.

Without a trumpet blare, without most mortals even caring

Yestersol Opportunity made Landfall at Cape York,

Rolling to and then slowly up Spirit Point,

Impossible Journey complete, disbelief conquered.

To her right: Endeavour’s once-meek eastern hills are mountains now,

And even dimmed by distance Opportunity can see

A dozen different craters carved into their cliffs,

The Future’s Mars’s Mt Rushmore.

And dominating all – The Crater With No Name,

That great Barsoomian bear paw-print clawed into the rock,

Sauron’s Eye were Meridiani Mordor…

Behind: the Tribulation Range traces out its gently

Sweeping curve, a half-buried backbone

Of age-decayed Points and Capes, forever out of reach.

 

And all around her now: broken boulders, rocks

And stones surrounding the open pit of Odyssey, all

Blown out of the ground when the crater was made

Millennia ago.

Every geologist seeing these scenes

On their flickering Post It note bordered screen

Is cursing fate that they were not born a century later;

Imagining they were bounding around

This Noachian Narnia, stopping beside each mineralogical

Marvel, bending down to lovingly run their

Fat, gloved hands across its ancient sides,

Sighing at the sight of flaking layers and plates

Mere inches from their face.

What delicious torture they must be going through…

 

One distant sol Mars-born children will play here,

Giddily chasing each other around these rugged rocks

While their parents stand in silence nearby.

Hushed; gloved fingertips touching tenderly;

Quietly celebrating completing The Opportunity Trail

Before taking cheesy family pictures

Of each other, standing beside Ridout or sitting

In a line on the dusty flight-deck of the great basalt

Battleship “USS Tisdale 2”, shielding their tired eyes

From the midday Sun to look for the diamond dust-

Coated statue of the rover standing high

On Tribulation’s side…

 

Look closely at the Navcam portraits of this place

While you gaze at that strange, snake-like seam shining

On the ground just past Oppy’s feet and

Out the corner of your eye phantom figures will appear:

Here, the ghost of John Muir, leaning

On his gnarled wizard staff, drinking in the view;

There: Ansel Adams’ spirit, his wilderness-tanned hands

Resting on his camera, waiting for just the right dusky,

Dust-soft light… And ahead, standing on Endeavour’s very edge:

Bierstadt, half-blinded by the beauty of the scene,

Eyes closed, day-dreaming of the landscapes he will paint

Of this noble, golden place…

 

If Opportunity ends her days here, that would be a life well lived.

But who’s to say that one day,

When she has grown weary of Cape York’s clods of clay,

And scaled Tribulation’s tightrope heights

She won’t just roll down the crater’s stadium walls

And set her sights on those asteroid-blasted farside hills?

Would anyone really be surprised?

 

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2011

NOTE: This poem has been turned into a poem-poster (“poemster”) by unmannedspaceflight.com’s AstroO, which you can find here:

https://astro0.wordpress.com/endeavour-revealed