Looking Back

23 11 2014

Having abandoned Philae to its fate
Rosetta moves away, impatient to see
The comet in all its charred-charcoal glory
Once again: tumbling,
Tumbling through the dark,
A misshapen hole cut out of the stars
Until the Sun’s phosphorous spark
Bursts over its pole, bathing its peaks
In a brutal light which sweeps
Across its landscape like a tide;
Craters, cliffs and dusty plains,
Emerging one by one again
From beneath the black waves
Of the Void’s eternal night.

Looking at it hanging there in space,
Its ragged face rolling slowly in and out of view
No-one could call this hunch-backed Quasimodo comet
Beautiful – except, perhaps, the geologists,
Leering at their OSIRIS centrefolds of its lobes
With undisguised lust,
Imagining running their hands over its dusty
Body in the dark, trembling fingertips
Tracing the outlines of each and every rock and stone,
Wishing they had seen it long ago,
When it was still young,
Seduced by the Sun for the first time,
Shaking out its silvery tresses
As it swept gracefully around the star…

…so old now, so old, a withered crone of ice and stone,
Slowly falling apart…

© Stuart Atkinson 2014

Philae Dreams

16 11 2014



Dwarfed beneath Sun-smothering cliffs,
Draped in shadows foul and thick as squid ink,
Pressed on all sides by ice hard as iron,
Philae now sleeps;
Dreaming of a lost Agilkian sky afire with Van Gogh stars,
Thick as pollen blown on a summer’s breeze:
A heaven strewn with a million gems
And jewels, and drifting slowly through
Them – Venus-bright Rosetta,
A lantern glowing in the Stygian night,
Swooping around the comet like an eagle
On outstretched silicon wings…

This is not where I should have been,
Philae whispers in the dark, trapped
In its Alcatraz cell of tar-black ice.
They told me I would see wonders
When I fell out of the sky: glittering jets
Of gas and dust spraying high; a sea of
Rocks and boulders stretching away on all sides
To a too-near horizon where the fossilised
Towers of fairy tale castles
Reached up to touch the Milky Way..!

They lied.

But I saw Agilkia, I saw it! Philae rages in its sleep;
Rushing up towards me: a flat, dusty plain,
A Promised Land perfect for my needs –
Why did it reject me?
Why push me away, banishing me to this wretched place?
Why bury me in this frigid, dusty tomb
Where El Capitan cliffs loom,
So dark the smallest candle flame would be blinding..?

I should be bathing in beauty, Philae sighs,
Not exiled in this cometary quarry,
This cruel and melancholy wasteland;
I should have lived out my Mayfly days in the Sun,
Feeling its golden rays kissing my face
As I gazed at snowflake fountains airbrushing the sky,
Not cowering in this charcoal-walled cave
Chosen by Fate to be my grave…

One day I will wake, Philae promises itself,
Its on-standby heart briefly fluttering like a bird
At the thought of it; and when I peer out from
This suddenly Sun-drenched hole oh, they’ll see what I can do…

© Stuart Atkinson 2014