16 08 2013


And so – Solander.
Another hill to climb; another ascent
Into Barsoom’s honey-hued sky;
Another chance to seek and find something new,
Something to make the geeks and Beakers
Back on Terra tremble with delight.

Perhaps another teasing trace of clays,
Trapped in these Vienetta layers of rock?
Or another Homestake? Not like that half-baked
Effort back on Cape York’s western flank,
But a proper meaty slab of gypsum,
Stained by Time and thick as Popeye’s arm,
Wide enough for my hungry RAT to gnaw on,
Eating into it a millimetre at a time,
Disembowelling it to expose the geological giblets inside…

All I want, if I’m honest, is the view.
Worth the wearying climb past all the broken
Boulders and standing stones;
Meandering around the ancient ledges and ridges;
Crawling over the scree to see Endeavour
From above. Oh, how I’d love
To look back across the plain and see Eagle Crater
Again, marvelling at how far I’ve come;
Tracing my zig-zagging tracks right back
Across the Great Dust Desert of Meridiani,
Past all those dunes and meteorites
To Victoria’s golden cliffs,
Where I had already spent ten rover lifetimes
“Doing a science” before that hipster scientist
Even thought of the term…

And so, Solander.
Another hill to climb, another page
Of martian history to re-write.
Time for these so-tired wheels to roll
Once more, splitting and cracking
More stones older than Earth’s Moon
En-route to yet another Somewhere New…

© Stuart Atkinson 2013

Dalby Skies…

16 08 2013


Staring up at this Dalby sky,
Forest rearing up on all sides,
I realise this is how Bowman felt
As he gazed into that Monolith,
With Jupiter turning silently below,
And sighed “My God, it’s full of stars…”

You think your sky is dark until
You come to a place like this;
Convince yourself “It’s not that bad,
Nothing like the ruined heavens
Of a real town, or a city. Not like London…”
But you’re wrong.
The stars that flicker above your garden shed
Or at the end of your lonely lane
Are mere dusty sequins compared to
These flaming jewels. Look!
Diamonds, emeralds and sapphires,
Stolen from sleeping Smaug’s horde
And tossed into the air to hang there,
Flashing, blazing like tiny flares…

Above the rows of silent tents,
Above the delighted celestial sightseers
Wandering from ‘scope to ‘scope,
Red torches glowing like fireflies,
The sky is Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”
Magically brought to life.
To the east, scraping the saw-tooth treetops,
Capella is an amber bead playing hide and seek
Through swaying branches.
Overhead, Vega – a brilliant chip of white,
Briefly flashing iceberg-blue as midnight
Blows softly through the forest,
Its passing marked only by yet another
Shooting star skipping across the ebony sky
Like a stone skimmed across a lake…

And arching overhead, the Milky Way…

I never even dared to dream I’d see it
Like this unless I somehow found a way to pay
The air fare to the faraway south and stand
In Uluru’s humped shadow.
But standing here, in a caravan-covered clearing
Of a truly Enchanted Wood
It cuts the sky in half,
An arm-thick vapour trail of stars.
Its milk is clotted, clumpy;
Lumps of foggy light joined together
By delicate wisps of mist and smoke.
Here and there along its impossible length
Dark fingerprints have been pressed into it
By the Universe’s hand, sooty smudges
On its lovely silvery band…

“The Backbone of The Night” some called it,
And tonight, whispering beneath it
I can understand why. High, high above me
Its pastel shades of pink, blue and grey
Could have been painted on the sky
By the restless spirits of Bierstadt or Church,
Weary of waterfalls, bored by burning sunsets.
Standing there, a rabbit caught in the glare
Of a hundred billion distant headlights
I feel giddy with its beauty.

From here clearly the stars are not mere
“Distant campfires” but hilltop beacons
Ablaze, each one shouting out across
The Great Black “Oi! We’re here!”
Staring out across this endless sea of suns
How can anyone believe anymore we are Alone?
With the Milky Way sprayed across
The sky like that, a foam of suns,
A froth of endless possibility,
How arrogant to believe “It’s only us,
All these stars are ours, and ours alone…”

© Stuart Atkinson 2013