The Red Planet

By Stephen Wylie

The planet’s red,
And very dead;
It’s air so thin
It’s barely there.
The nights are cold
And so’s the day;
Yet howling storms
Sometimes unfold
And blow the dust away.

An empire’s ransom has been spent
Exploring this strange land;
In spite of which it still remains
Untouched by human hand.
We cannot go to Mars ourselves,
The rays which fill the void between
Pose too much risk to health.
In any case it seems like Hell,
I’d rather visit Ingoldmells.

Our robots traverse its cratered realm
And send sharp pictures back
To Pasadena labs, which helm
These artful metal wanderers on caterpillar tracks.
We’re shown that flowing water once
Shaped pebble and crevasse,
Not sparely or just briefly,
But for time spans that are vast.

For signs of life they vainly grope,
Cross shattered craters and harsh fells.
It seems a forlorn hope.
We’re a billion years too late,
A long long time ago
Escaping air sealed Mars’s fate.
The hurtling moons of old Barsoom
Look down on Man’s devices.
Did once they shadow motile life?
Or was it just some single cells?
It seems unlikely Mars gave birth
To fragrant flowers or leafy dells.

Yet if once germs existed there,
Even though their time was fleeting,
It would change our way of seeing
The vast star-fields which us surround,
In which we know that worlds abound.
On Mars the knowledge that we seek
Is that life on Earth is not some freak
But part of a great sea of being
That washes ‘cross the cosmic shores.

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