A Martian Sequence
INTRODUCTION TO MARS
When you were still a boy, you didn't know
too much about the planet Mars — a dead,
abandoned world without a sea; instead
of fertile Earth, you'd find a wasteland, so
you thought. Its rusty deserts couldn't grow
a single plant, just like its moons of Dread
and Fear; according to the books you read,
all signs of life had vanished long ago.
But now you know this isn't true. You're not
a little boy, you've learned there's oxygen
on Mars to fill your lungs, and rain, and dew.
You've learned that Mars has jungles, humid, hot
and green. That Mars has blue lagoons. That men
can live on Mars. That you're a Martian, too.
WELCOME TO MARS
Welcome to Mars. Here is our Martian bed
which you and I will fill with Martian rust,
the product of our iron, rain and lust.
Let me caress your shoulders, neck and head,
your chest, your back, your arms, your legs. How red
you are — the Martian midday sunlight must
have burned your skin. We Martians shouldn't trust
the sun, but bow before our moons instead.
The moment that you leave your closet, there
is Deimos, there is Dread. The moment that
you leave your closet, Phobos, too, unbars
himself, releasing Fear. Both Dread and Fear
accompany us Martians, staring at
a ruddy sky. Welcome, welcome to Mars.
Earth's scientists, believing there's no sea
on Mars, insist the planet is as dry
as Mercury. They haven't seen what I
have seen: beneath red desert scenery,
an ocean flows. And there's a colony
of mermen in that sea who do not cry
about their lack of legs but simply try
to live a life of aquatic dignity.
Beneath the arid surface, mermen are
as free as dolphins back on Earth, as free
as shadows who have managed to unlock
their closet's door and leave the door ajar.
And in my dreams, these mermen flock to me
to show me where my rocketship can dock.
In Martian, every verb must end with "y,"
while nouns must end with "o," or rhyme with "o:"
amigo, camerado, scorpio.
So many words are new: to merman-try,
to twilight-stay, to closet-nullify.
And old words have new meanings: shadow — glow —
Its most unique, distinctive feature, though,
is Martian syntax doesn't let you lie.
In Martian, you must tell the truth, without
the luxury of swimming in a sea
of falsehoods or of using words as masks.
It doesn't matter if you whisper, shout
or cry — you have to answer truthfully
the complex questions which a Martian asks.
Translation is a skill all Martians learn;
on Mars, a "closet" means a passageway
that leads you to the inlet of a bay
where mermen play a game of tag. "To yearn"
refers to watching distant campfires burn
while drifting on a raft. In Martian, "day"
is when a closet-merman has to stay
ashore while waiting for the tide to turn.
We sometimes translate "gay" as "happy" but
its meaning can be "sad," depending on
the ebbing of the tides. The hardest word
to translate is the simplest — "love;" we shut
the covers of our Martian
our glasses lost at sea, our vision blurred.
If you have any comments on these poems, G.S. Crown would be
pleased to hear from you.