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A Poem from Mars

04/29/2014
Christopher Cokinos

Field Notes : Repair
        --at the Mars Desert Research Station, Crew 141, southern Utah

...the rocks are ringing, the rocks are ringing the mountains.
        --from a southern Paiute song

His robot spider
clicks its black toes
against the metal floor
of the Engineering Bay.
He puzzles circuits, the tool gleams.

Nothing is perfectly plumb.
We shim the gaps with plans
and bits of song.
A logbook : "problem resolved."

Rocks here surged in river
channels then rested
for a long time.  Not so
long.  Sunlight finds them.
We do too.  There's a road not far from here.

We go, scooting another
lens to sandstone,
blossoming a spectrograph,
figuring the traverse

needs, next time, this other route.
This is practice.
This might just be.
It is
the balky wheel that

we make turn, the auger,
a better spear, a linebreak
marked with arrows, a chord
that fills the Hab

during sun salutation.
The heart rate's variable,
like it's supposed to be,
and Jurassic dunes that ring
our sim are themselves

indifferent.  Look,
a lot of things have gone wrong.
We admit that.
Out there, we're speaking in mime,

refining gestures to explain
the state we're in.
The spider taps its feet
only when we tell it.
But we know the circuit's bigger.

The hand on the helmet means I'm Okay.
The hand at the throat means No More.
The arms waving mean Come Here.
The hand passing before the visor means I Can't See.
The hand on the helmet means I'm Okay.


--Christopher Cokinos, Crew Journalist