Hebes Chasma, Valles Marineris, Mars
We take the rains on faith here, though they came
as surely as this chasma’s echoes sealed
in layered sediments that whisper lake
or river. Never desert. If this lean
& arid airless now is all we know,
we lack imagination: those before
(still unacknowledged) marked this world their own,
yet temporary. From their etchings worn
into these walls like memory, we see
the blinders of our vision. Science said
no evidence of life, & we believed,
as we trust rains that may have fallen when
this spiral glyph was mapped—its message plain
in arrows carved through starward. Out. Away.
Ann K. Schwader‘s most recent collection of dark verse, Unquiet Stars, was published in 2021 by Weird House Press. Two previous collections, Dark Energies (P’rea Press 2015) and Wild Hunt of the Stars (Sam’s Dot 2010) were Bram Stoker Award Finalists. Her poems have recently appeared in Spectral Realms, Dreams & Nightmares, Penumbra, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and Modern Haiku. She was the SFPA Grand Master for 2018.
Author’s Backstory and Comments: I am fascinated by both Mars and Southwestern petroglyphs, and have a screensaver of petroglyphs from Mesa Prieta (NM) on the Echo Show device in my office. When I read a recent EarthSky article updating the chances of water on Mars and mentioning the word chasma (an extraterrestrial canyon, more or less), I couldn’t stop imagining what it might be like to find petroglyphs on Mars. Wikipedia supplied the logical location, and my go-to form (sonnet, slant-rhymed in this case) helped my imagination work the rest of it out.
Editor’s Notes and Image Credit: Image of Hebes Chasma [ESA]; also see the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKa8kTvgZyg
I love this poem.
I love this poem too. Flows nicely, with a lot of layers to unravel.