If you’re a regular reader (and if you are, thank you for being one!) you’ll know that as well as this blog I also write poetry inspired by astronomy, including poems about the missions of the Mars rovers. For a while now - ever since she arrived, really – I’ve been wanting, and trying, to write something about Santa Maria, because it’s certainly a milestone in the mission. For some reason it just wouldn’t come, it was a real head-meet-brick-wall situation, and very frustrating! But on Wednesday finally, FINALLY, the martian muses tapped me on my shoulder, whispered in my ear, and a poem started to take shape. Two days later it’s finished, so here it is. I hope some of you like it.
Unseen by weary Opportunity as she stares
Down at pale plates of wind-etched, once-wet stone,
The ghost of Columbus glides past, striding
Towards Santa Maria, sword swinging at his side,
His shadow cast o’er the rock-strewn ground
By the low, cold Sun.
No damp deck rolls below him; no
Tide-tortured timbers squeak beneath
His heels; his sea spray stained boots
Crump and crunch through bone dry duricrust now,
With rust-hued boulders, named after his
Famous crew, scattered all around like statues…
Finally he stands at the crater’s crumbling edge,
Stares out across the ancient impact scar
And smiles. The far horizon is as flat as his
Beloved sea – a razor sharp line scored between
The epic butterscotch sky and wide open, Big Country
Plain of ancient Meridiani.
Through his Santa Maria’s creaking rigging
He saw a heaven high and impossibly blue;
But this landscape’s roof has no snow white
Cirrus clouds, no flocks of brightly-painted birds
Cawing and wheeling in the sun.
This dominating dome knows no azure hints or tints;
Nature’s brush rushed to paint all ochre here…
Yet over there, beneath the sepia eastern sky,
Dark mountains catch his explorer’s eye.
The Endeavour range is low, and long,
An island chain rising from an ocean of stone
And wind-whipped dust… and it calls to him,
Beckons him onwards as a strange horizon has always done –
He vanishes, blown away by an icy martian breeze,
Leaving Opportunity to scratch at the rocks
Beneath her wheels, seeking signs of ancient water
On the new New World…
© Stuart Atkinson 2011
…and if you’d like to see an illustrated version, here it is (click to enlarge):