Prox b

30 08 2016


Proxima Centauri… Sol’s closest star…

Too faint by far for the naked eye to see
Under even the clearest, Moon-free Chilean sky,
And in a telescope’s eyepiece never more than a mere
Red speck, a spark spat out of a fire.

I can’t even see you from this far north; Earth
Gets in the way. I’d need to pull up my horizon
Like a rug to scan the sky for you,
Searching for a ruddy pollen grain
Halfway between Mars and the stars of the Southern Cross.
But I know you’re there.

For centuries we thought you barren –
A lonely, shrunken sun; a tiny sequin sewn
In the black velvet cloak of the southern sky.
But now we know the treasure you were hiding
All along: circling you, like a moth whirling
‘Round a flame is a world
Destined for fame since its birth.

Tho exo-planet hunters proclaim you
‘Earthlike’ you are not Terra’s twin –
At least, nothing like the Earth as people think of it:
A perfect Christmas tree bauble, glazed blue and white,
Shining in the endless black night of space,
With snow-capped mountains, oceans rolling up
Golden sandy beaches with a hiss, kissing the
Sapphire sky at the horizon.
No. Your discoverers just mean “Roughly the same size
As Earth” when they call you that,
Knowing you could be a Harvey Dent world,
Half your face coated in ice, the other
Covered in syruppy flows of glowing lava.
But “Earth-like” means “like Narnia” to those
Who do not know how scientists’ brains work
So now millions believe we have found “Earth 2”,
A New world just a handful of light years away!
Perfectly placed for a weekend getaway!

“Proxima b” they christened you,
Unimaginatively – but that cold name, useless for such
An important place will be replaced, I’m sure,
With something far more suitable;
More fitting for our first star probe’s target,
Screaming by at 1/10 light speed…

One impossibly faraway day,
The first true ‘star sailors’ will wake
From dreamless sleep to weigh anchor
Off Proxima b. Sweeping in from the Great Dark,
Their ship’s cobweb-fine solar sails flapping
And cracking in the star’s gusting wind
Before finally sliding into orbit
Around the fabled ‘Rock at Prox’.
And then, lips scalded by centuries-old coffee,
Their pale faces will press anxiously
Against snowflake-crusted glass,
Desperate to see ‘b’ with their own eyes
And smiling they’ll whisper
“We made it…’

(c) Stuart Atkinson 2016

Farewell Philae – For Now…

18 08 2016

farewell philae - for now pic

Original artwork created by Christine Rueter (@Tychogirl on Twitter) – produced as a collaborative project with me for this poem. You can see more of her brilliant work on her blog:


Beneath sheets of sparkling frost,
Lost Philae sleeps now, and will doze
Until, one day, who knows when,
Men and women from Earth,
Their boots crusted with clods of soot-black comet
Dust and snow will crump slowly across
67P’s frozen plains and see it –
A glint of gold in a shadow,
High up on acrumbling cliff’s side,
Shining like a wolf’s eye.
And then the Fellowship of Philae
Will hike up Seth’s serrated cliffs
Until, high above Hapi’s sands
They’ll reach out with shaking hands
And drag it from its icy tomb
Into the light, setting it upright again,
Brushing years of ice and dust
From its face before taking it
To its final resting place – a glass case
At ESOC, spotlights warming it,
Thawing a century of frostbite…

But for now, Philae sleeps,
Without Rosetta’s alarm clock beep-beep-beep
Interrupting its dreams
Of what might have been,
If only those hapless harpoons had fired…
If only it hadn’t bounced like a rubber ball…
If only it hadn’t fallen into that dark place,
Landing, legs splayed,
In a lonely hole hidden from the Sun’s precious rays…

(c) Stuart Atkinson 2016