Nat Geo











My shelves groan under the weight

Of books about Mars.

They bend in the middle, like geological layers

Of stone warped by time, moaning

“No more, please, no more!”

Crammed onto them, almost vacuum-packed

Are paperbacks and hardbacks by the hundred;

Sci-fi novels old and new; atlases and volumes

Of maps and charts; scientific papers

And reports with barely a gap between them.

But on the top shelf – the most important of them all,

Its cover creased and faded now, bleached by the Sun,

Ink smudged in places by my fingers and thumbs,

Its original wasp belly-yellow dulled

To a pale imitation of its former self.

There it is, see? Sandwiched between

Red Mars and The Martian Chronicles,

Between Squyres’ Roving Mars and Clarke’s

Snows of Olympus: The National Geographic

From January 1977,

A special issue celebrating the Viking landings

Of the previous year. Almost an antique now,

Definitely “vintage”, but still as beautiful

As the day I… acquired it from my school in 1981,

The year the first space shuttle flew.

I’d found it in the Leaning Tower of Pisa pile

Of magazines the art teacher kept in a corner for all

Her budding Rembrandts, Constables and Warhols

To browse in search of inspiration.

I was inspired to slip it into my bag and scurry

Out of the room with it, hurrying home

To gaze at its deliciously glossy pages

Filled with photos of the landing sites

At Chryse and Utopia.



© Stuart Atkinson 2018

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