“The Guide”







Somesol a so-tired tour guide

Will lead vacationing families

To this place one final time,

Their faces beaming behind gold-plated visors –

Some sun-starved and pale,

Betraying their martian birth;

Others Terra-tanned and dappled

With sweat, clearly not yet used

To the confines and cloying heat of a p-suit –

All clutching cameras as they climb

The Shoemaker spine of Cape York

To stand huffing and puffing by Greeley Haven.


Ever patient, the Guide will smile,

Describing for the millionth time how,

A hundred years before, brave Opportunity –

Left alone on Mars after Spirit’s death-by-quicksand

In Husband Hill’s dark shadow, half a world away –

Rested her weary wheels on these very stones,

Before rolling creakily away, continuing her epic

Quest for Clays beneath Ares’ butterscotch sky…


Fighting to be heard above the herds of screaming

Children; trying to stop their parents prodding

And poking at the ancient sites; shooing wooing teens

Away from Tisdale 2 as they try to etch their names

Into its aircraft carrier deck, she’ll count to ten,

Again and again and again, until it’s finally time

To lead her party off the hill back down into Endeavour Town,

Its modules shining white as a pile of broken bones

On the crater floor below…


As the footsore sightseers scatter in search of bars

Or the comfort of their beds, instead

The Guide will turn and head right back up to the Cape,

Striding past the gaping pit of Odyssey;

Skirting the sepia standing stones of Stoughton

Until she arrives back at Greeley’s rocky slope

And sits down with a heartfelt sigh, blissfully alone, at last,

Drinking in the landscape through a besotted lover’s eyes.


Behind her – the setting Sun, a ball of blue ice

Falling, leaf-slow, through the lavender alien sky;

In front – the Faraway Hills, hump-backed mountains

Marking Endeavour’s eastern side, their peaks painted

A dozen Picasso shades of orange, ginger and gold,

All afire with martian Alpenglow,

Their cratered slopes and bases already deep in shadow;

And beyond her booted feet, cast on the crater’s floor

By the fading Sun – her own silhouette surrounded by

A faerie-light halo: The Glory of Mars, right there for all to see.


Sitting there, with Earth shining o’er her shoulder,

A firefly fluttering blue and green above Victoria’s

Distant Capes she’ll know that there’s no other place,

On any world waltzing around any of the Milky Way’s

Cream-stirred-into-coffee Catherine wheel of stars,

She’d rather be, at the end of this, her final day.


© Stuart Atkinson 2012




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1 Response to “The Guide”

  1. Forty and perhaps even fifty years ago, there was not the slightest doubt in my mind that I would see the first landing on Mars, but also the first colony on another world.

    Now, however, I know I will have to be extraordinarily lucky in the genetic sweepstakes to live long enough, and that even the mid-point mark of the once distant 21st century may not be sufficient.

    Your poetry touches a part of me that deperately hopes your vision here comes to pass, even though I may not be a witness.

    Thank you.

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