Each night, before I go to sleep,
The dusty rocks around my feet
Roll up to me and whisper gently
“Don’t you miss the Earth?”

No, little ones, I smile, how can I miss
Somewhere I have never been?
Or pine for sights and colours
That I have never seen?

For my “Earth” was an alien world of metal, steel and glass,
Where I could never feel sunlight sting my back.
My high-Spirited twin and I were made on screaming lathes,
Bathed in floodlights’ brutal glare.
Our limbs slotted together perfectly like a puzzle’s pieces
To make restless creatures with cameras for eyes
And wheels instead of feet – but we knew no freedom.
We grew up in a pristine prison, within walls white, cream and high;
Shark cages, gantries and cranes crowding in on all sides.
Tested, tested, then tested again,
We prowled a floor scattered with spinning lamps,
Rolled up and down powder blue ramps
Beneath humming lightsabre Suns
As our proud parents watched, white as snowmen, their young
Faces peering out at us through gaps in rustling paper suits.

So, you see, no warm Pasadenan breeze ever wafted over me;
I never looked up to see birds flapping their wings in the swaying trees,
Never saw JPL’s famous deer munching on Spring’s tasty leaves.
And when I finally was set free I left in darkness,
Cocooned inside the petals of a metal flower,
Showered with praise but not the sweet raindrops or the warm honey rays
Of the summer Sun I so longed for –

I felt rocking, heard knocking, then a savage kick from below –

– and woke up… here, 13 of Their years ago.

Here, where the frigid air carries the taste of faraway ice…
Here, where two bone fragment moons drift silently through a lavender sky…
Here, where the so-called Homeworld is just a magnesium-blue spark
Twinkling in the darkening purple dusk…
Here, where every grain of rust-stained dust
Remembers fairy tale thunder and rain…
Here, where phantom rivers and lakes
Haunt Barsoom’s corpse-dry plains…
Here, where blood would flash freeze
Into lifeless rock pools of garnets and rubies…
Here, where Vikings, Sojourner and Spirit come to me in my dreams
As the whispering winds sing me to sleep…
Here, where cold starlight reveals the ghostly outlines
Of martians with eyes of gold, their guns thrumming with bees
As they sail their noble ships over endless cinnamon seas …

No, I tell the drowsy stones – this is my home, more than Earth ever was.
There is nothing there to miss.

© Stuart Atkinson 2017

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