A thousand years after Norse hordes first invaded England,
Swords flashing, bashing down church doors
And setting villages aflame, a second Viking invasion took place
On a world 200 million miles away.
No armada this time; no lines of longboats
Bringing hairy, helmeted warriors to rape, pillage and slaughter
Infants in their beds. Instead, a pair of snow-white robots
Fell like stones from the salmon pink sky,
Slowed at first by parachutes before firing rockets
To break their fall and land with a grand entrance WHUMPF.
They took only photographs; their treasure, priceless measurements
Of wind speed, temperature and dust;
Their battle cries the whirring and whining of motors and gears
As their arms scooped up dirt to test for signs of life.
They gave humanity its first view of the surface
Of Barsoom: a landscape covered with millions of rocks and stones
Encrusted with cinnamon-hued fines; boulders, like Big Joe,
Half-buried beneath drifts of wind-blown dust the colour of powdered rust;
The Sun reduced to a blurred bronze coin,
Dropping through a twilight as purple as a bruise.
These Vikings came not to snuff out life
But to hunt for it, tasting the bitter grit with the tips
Of their electronic tongues; feeding the dust a Terran chef’s
Special broth to see if anything with an appetite slurped it down;
Raking up the ground to see if any Sun-shy bugs
Or germs lurked beneath the hoarfrost-painted crust…
© Stuart Atkinson 2018