Martian Nights: An Excerpt

Chapter 1

Everything human is provisional,
except love. The towers constructed in glue
and glass, downtown, and with luxury lined,
soon come apart at materials' end,
and their husks homes become for nesting doves.
Countries also will dissolve into parts,
to be recombined into allegiances,
unrecognized, or allowed to scraps lapse,
the nucleus of something not yet known.
Even the mind immortalized in page,
or in performance distributed wide,
is lost to the moths by civil rupture.
But love, that which is handed insistently,
from generation to generation
abideth forever; unlike the urge
of airy individuals, more so
the heirloom of confidence projected
in our common store of reasonableness.
How much better than hate, whose jumping seeds
like cuckoos expire in depleted beds.

A star-speckled night it was, through the glass,
at the top of the Summit Restaurant,
cap-stone crowning the Consular Hotel.
Refracted dome, in whose panoptic panes,
bubbling the drinking and diners below,
like astral star charts, the heavens were spread.
The clash of knife on fork, their chop rhythm,
and the muted vowels of private talking,
at contested tables and seated bar,
a reverbing wash make, like tip highlights
over this crowded stilllife, gathered in
from all corners of Terminal City.
Like spectators before an ancient game
of kick the bones, await they the players,
or their proxies, spun in spangling diadems,
or skeletons of star-light, feet of gods,
who slowly people the black playing field,
above, with the deftness of ritual.
Released will be the blood-rouged red skull puck,
at the proper instant, into the fray;
this they craved, soliciting tickets to
the hottest show in town, when planet Mars
would to earth closest be centuries hence,
and magnified in the sky-exposed roof.
Some rare display of strength expect they then.

Of many miens were the sundry guests,
and by many paths come to sit beneath
the imminent show. Full sombre some fall
at cake, while others glibbed by giddiness,
in strong liquors uninduced, quieted are
by dire bus boys threatening expulsion.
Then the cynics hold momentary sway,
looking with malice on expressions of
the slightest breathlessness in beholding
the extent of Heaven's true magnitude.
Vanquished they, inconsequential pip-squeaks,
on appearance of she who had been there,
seen that, and done what the multitudes here
in wishes only attempt: visit Mars.
At special table cordoned round with tapes
of a gilded variety, sits she --
in a cone of light, softly radiant,
with sisterly kin, and, close at elbow,
an old black bag, curiously head-shaped
-- the Martian astronaut and pod pilot,
Kat Vitko, who commiserates coolly.

"My dear girl," she says to her table-mate,
"do not fret what I do tonight. Duty,
not oath-sworn, but that naturally given
to comrades, steadfast and implacable,
is what calls me to perform this hard task.
The end of friends, or those we love greater,
though accomp'nied by unclot effusions,
is something we must loyally attend,
and all sympathy give to their last thoughts.
So I bring the black bag, and will unzip
when time is right the singular contents."
Concludeth the pilot Kat to her sister,
Trilby Stash, who still bears the devil's mark,
and by the watch counts, sore trepidated,
mere minutes until Mars its zenith zones.