At Nine



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

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