Christmas Day… dawn… and high on Endeavour’s ancient rim
Opportunity slowly wakes, yawning, blinking
As the cold Sun climbs up from behind the faraway hills,
Rising into a smoky blue sky.
All through Christmas Eve night she dreamed – as she often does –
Of Earth, but one dream was so strange. Some time
After midnight she could have sworn she saw a man
Standing beside her. Tall and round, silhouetted against
The ice chip stars, his spacesuit was…bizarre…
Bright red torso; snow white fur wrapped ‘round its rubber seals
And heavy boots as black as coal.
With his hand resting on her back he knelt down beside her,
Knees crunching in the duricrust and whispered
“You survived another year, dear little one,
So here’s a gift for you…”
Then he smiled, kind eyes flashing Phobos-bright –
– and suddenly she was back at JPL, with all its voices and laughter.
She could smell new-mown grass being chewed by wide-eyed deer;
Feel warm Pasadenan rain falling softly on her beetle-winged
Back, sluicing Barsoom’s cruel dust away as a gentle wind
Blew over, around and through her, a delicious dry car wash
Sweeping the fines away, leaving her sparkling clean again –
When she woke, looking around she found nothing had changed.
Cinnamon-hued rocks and stones still covered the ground
Between her weary wheels and tilting back her heavy head
She stared up into the same old sepia sky, a dome painted
A hundred subtle shades of peach and tan, watered-down Shiraz
Reds and feathered clouds of candyfloss pink.
She was all alone. No-one else was in sight.
But in the dust, off to her side,
A pair of boot-prints stood out in the early morning light…
© Stuart Atkinson 2017