On Mars

by Callista Buchen


On Mars 

     Mars has become a kind of mythic arena onto which we have projected our Earthly hopes and fears.
                                         —Carl Sagan


Dust is everywhere. Icy specks whirl over
Olympus Mons, through Valles Marineris,
shrieking with dissonance imposed by solar wind
and air’s absence. The planet is a pipe organ
filled with sand grains, yet the dead come
as bits of dust, old souls shaped like snow.

Geologic death is tedious. From the surface,
the sky looks like pallets of lion skins, salt
still between each hide, as if the tanner
was suddenly called away. Inert sand laps
at the yellow edge, the dead marching in the light
of God. Where is the redness? Who calls the armies?

A tawny glow remains after dawn departs,
light unchanging, the hint of a new day
that won’t be realized. Mars reddens
at a distance, the dead stir and ready—
they never die, never darken. Morning is perpetual
in the flutter of fur, still bloody,

the wake of the dead marchers across craters
and canyons. Here, in sight of the earthly living,
those still shelled in layers of atmosphere and air,
our dead pulse on inside storms of carbon dioxide.
Broken, airless, they shout with the madness
of forgotten kings and she-kings, lumber in hopeful

circles, cutting messages on the Borealis basin
like canals or optical illusions. Life’s byproduct
fills their bellows as gray lungs refuse to pink up.
The core churns out of time, out of tune, while volcanoes
cease to roar. The sand hurries along in the discomfort
of 5/4 time. Rocks, only for a while, can be alive.

See this, machine of humanity: dust only multiplies. You
are marching. You are a lion. You are the bloody planet.
You are painted red like waves of morning clouds.





Callista Buchen has an MA in literature from the University of Oregon and an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University. Her work has appeared in Gargoyle, Gigantic, Bellevue Review, elimae, and others, with reviews published in Mid-American Review, The Collagist, The Literary Review, and Prick of the Spindle.


2 thoughts on “On Mars

  1. Ellen McGrath Smith says:

    I really like this poem a lot. I especially like the move at the end…It comes as a surprise yet seems to have been the purpose for the whole poem. Nice when that happens

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: