At Nine

30 01 2013



A few faithful friends have stayed by my side,

Their reassuring hands laid loyally on my back,

But most have forgotten me, abandoned me

To fawn over another considered more beautiful than I.

Younger, taller, with eyes that shoot invisible fire

And a miniature Sun for a heart.

They follow her now, woo her now,

Walk beside her as she slinks, snail-paced,

Over the dry, round pebbled riverbeds of Gale,

Delighting them with her outlandish tales

Of gently-lapping waters and softly falling rain;

Laughing too loudly at anything she says

They’ve left me to stand alone, here

On my lonely island of stone.

If I was bitter, or jealous – which, of course,

A MER robot cannot be – I might feel the need

To remind you all I was “Doing a Science” before she was even born,

Before her army of Curious geeks began gleefully re-Tweeting

The term! For sol after sol I have roved this world;

Crossed its deserts, driven to, round and into

Its dustbowl craters for almost ten Terran years,

So this planet holds no fears for me now,

After so many days of being stalked by sudden death.

But no matter.

I am a martian now.

This is my home, this is where I live,

Where I wake and sleep, where I creep on creaking wheels

Around the Time-worn rim of great Endeavour,

Sol after sol after sol,

Each sunrise a delightful “I’m still alive!” surprise;

Each glacial lavender sunset met with a whispered

“Please let me wake again, there’s so much more

For me to do here yet…” prayer…

I am a martian now.

Earth is just a memory, a ghostly wraith.

It calls out to me as I stand bathed

In the dusty half-light of every dusk and dawn,

A sapphire spark embedded in the grey.

My very own Cathy, moaning “How could you leave me?”

As I look down from Cape York’s

Slowly weathering heights,

Watching dust devils waltzing far below,

Following barely-there Mares Tails of cloud

Drifting through the honey-hued sky,

Feeling the breeze rolling over, around and through me.

I shiver as her phantom breath, blowing across

That Timeless Gulf of Space, chills my face,

Stinging my eyes as I gaze lovingly at Mars.

These are my brooding, Bronte moors,

My fields of gold. Covered not

With softly swaying grass

But billions of broken stones.

No wind-whipped trees here,

The ancient breeze carries only the sound

Of boulders being ground to sand

One millimetre every million years…

And yet

I grow weary of this place. I itch to race

Away from these Stegosaur spine blades of stone

And roam onwards, onwards,

South, to where Tribulation’s lofty peak

Calls out like a mermaid, beckoning me.

Up there is where I should be,

Looking down on where I am now,

Where I have been for so long,

Snuffling about for traces of clays

Around these pale and pasty plates…

I am a martian now.

Brother to Bradbury’s sandships;

Sister to Kim Stanley Robinson’s stone-clad

Issei-smuggling rovers;

Kin to HG’s “Ulla!” singing tripods.

I am a Barsoomian sculpture,

Its dust coats and covers every part of me,

Has penetrated deep down to the very heart of me.

There is not a nut or bolt of me

Free from the touch of this planet’s powdered rust.

I am a martian now.

© Stuart Atkinson 2013

Waiting For ISON

30 01 2013




There you are – a faint, fuzzy star

Camouflaged by the crushed diamond dust

Sprinkled between Castor and Pollux.

Not much to look at now, it’s true,

But before year’s end, you promise us,

You will blossom and bloom, unfurling

Your Camelot banner tail across our frosty

Northern skies as you whip around the Sun…




Please don’t let us down.

We’ve waited for you for so long;

Dreamed so many dreams of you;

Wished on so many shooting stars for you;

Imagined you lighting up our sky since childhood;

Sighed for oh so many years at the sight

Of paintings showing those that came before you

Burning bright on nineteenth century nights,

Their searchlight tails sprayed across the heavens,

Princes and peasants alike staring up at you

With wide-with-wonder eyes,

Unable to believe what they were seeing,

Some no doubt screaming “Begone! Flee!

Leave us be!”




Others like you have promised us the world,

Reached out from across the Great Black

To fill our hungry hearts with hope,

Only to leave us standing in the dark alone,

Glaring at another empty sky,

Shaking our fists at the universe for lying

To us again, playing us for fools again,

Shattering our dreams and making us feel

Stupid again…




Oh please, don’t be lying to us,

Don’t leave us standing at astronomy’s altar in tears.

We want to gather on our school playing fields,

Hilltops and harbour-sides, watching you rise

In glory from behind bare-limbed trees.

We want to park our cars in crowded lay-bys and stand

With strangers, marvelling at the sight of you

Stretched across the purple-hued twilight

Like God’s own Maglite beam.

We want to hear people standing in line

At bus-stops and post offices describing

How they saw it walking home, or walking the dog,

Or weaving their way back from the pub,

“And it was beautiful…”

We want to walk along the shore, hand in hand,

To stand at the waves’ foaming edge and whisper

“Look at that…!” as your tail paints

A mother of pearl rainbow across the sky.

We want to walk out into our gardens at dawn,

In our Christmas slippers and cat hair matted dressing gowns

And see you shining above our sheds,

Long tail stretched above our heads, feeling small,

Banishing The Ghost of Kohoutek Past

Once and for all…




So please, don’t let us down, oh please

Don’t let us down. Not again.

Don’t make future generations snarl

As they say your name; don’t make us hate you

When you’ve gone, cursing bitter memories of you.

Put on a celestial circus show for us!

Thrill us as you fly around our star,

Make us want to weep at your beauty as you leap

Over Sol’s flickering flames to hang above

Our cities and towns, briefly looking down

On our warring, weary world like an angel

Before flying away again, leaving us behind,

Leaving us with a thousand Facebook photographs

And a trillion breathless Tweets to remember you by…




© Stuart Atkinson 2013