My First View

 

The first time I saw you I was

Fifteen, I think, just starting

To discover the sky. I’d

Been “into space” since I was five

– From the day I was made to sit in front of

The Big TV in school

To watch Apollo astronauts kangaroo-

Hopping across the Moon,

Lighting a flame in me

That would never go out –

But the sky above my head remained

A mystery. Eclipses, comets, meteor showers,

All passed by without me even trying

To see them, but finally I turned my eyes

Away from the distractions of the small screen,

Away from JR’s sneer, Daisy Dukes’ shorts

And Metal Mickey’s puns, to gaze up at Up There,

And realised what I’d missed.

And top of my “Things To See” list was you.

I’d been drawn to you, fascinated by you,

Some would later say obsessed with you

Since I was old enough to pick up a book.

Hiding in school libraries at breaktimes when I should

Have been outside “playing” in the Sun,

My idea of fun was reading about your volcanoes

And valleys, canyons and craters,

Imagining exploring your great deserts, mountains and plains.

And then, one night, I finally saw you –

Not on TV, or in a magazine,

Not on the pages of a book in a library

But with my own eyes. Through my first telescope

You were a tiny thing, an orange disc trembling

In my snow-white Tasco’s crappy eyepiece

But I was hypnotised.

There was your pole, a pale blue dot

Beneath the brown-grey “Never thought I’d see it”

V of Syrtis Major.

And even though you wriggled and shook

Like a fish fighting on a hook

That first view of you was more magical,

More real than any of the Viking pair’s

Sweeping panoramas.

 

Fast forward forty years.

Every day my phone shows me the latest photos

Of you taken by robot rovers;

Spy satellites rolling endlessly in orbit high

Above you send back images so detailed they show

The shadows of individual boulders

On the floor of Valles Marineris.

I live in the sci-fi future I longed for as a child.

But I’ll never forget my first view of you,

On the night a red star became Barsoom.

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2018

 

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