A Martian Memoir

Frank Coffman

A Martian Memoir

at last! we touched down!
first world of the great beyond
great wonders beckoned
we surveyed the red terrain
but was that the correct word

for “terra” implied our Earth?

is marain more apt?
Olympus Mons looming huge
on the horizon
beyond the desert expanse
of rock and the ruddy sand
the “marain” invited us

I would be the first!
somehow by drawing of lots
(the captain declined
to exercise right of rank)
this honor of a lifetime
had fallen by chance to me!

couldn’t mimic Armstrong
how to know just what to say?
I walked down the ramp
These footprints won’t be the last
To mark the soil of new worlds.
First steps of our destiny!

the others were pleased
will the message back from Earth
show the same response?
the crew was soon beside me
obligatory photos
were soon taken; flags planted

the materials to build
were already there
the three supplier landings
had all been quite successful
all were near our landing site.

work was completed
within two seven-day weeks
by coincidence
weeks would be familiar
the Martian year divided
nicely into 24

our new home was fine
well-designed, comfortable
but the gravity
was, at the first, a challenge
just a bit more than a third
of the pull felt on the Earth

but—rovers assembled—
we were ready to explore
this alien world
we first went to Olympus—
to its base…too high to climb
that awesome sky-high mountain


(many journal entries later)

here for two years now
almost 1400 days!
we’ll build a new base
today we are far Northwest—
region: Caledonia
near what some have called “The Face”

an ancient visage
etched by the winds of eons
arises from red dust
a marvel to us who came
from that distant blue-green globe
a mere speck in the black sky.

that brief pang again!
from the start, I understood
the trip was one way
never to see Earth again
never to walk its green fields
never watch sea waves roll in

the thought comes again
reinforced by this vista
Bradbury’s old words
“We see our own reflections…”
“Yes, we are the Martians now.”
likely paraphrase, but close.

We are the Martians!
other groups have joined us here
but we were the first
I have come to understand
those myriad points of light
beckon us as future home

Frank Coffman is a retired professor of English, Creative Writing, and Journalism. Three major collections of speculative verse—The Coven’s Hornbook & Other Poems, Black Flames & Gleaming Shadows, and Eclipse of the Moon—will be followed by What the Night Brings [forthcoming, summer 2023]. His poetry spanning the popular genres has appeared in many magazines, journals, and anthologies. His collection of occult detective stories, Three Against the Dark, was published in 2022, and another collection of his fiction, Maxime Miris: 15 Tales of the Weird, Horrific, & Supernatural will be out in early 2024.

Author’s Backstory and/or Crafting: As with much of my work, the “backstory” of the poem is my familiarity with Bradbury’s work on the Martian topic AND my desire to fit a newly discovered form. I had not been aware of the rare Bussokuseki-Style if 575777. It seemed a good form for a narrative stanza. As with much of my work, form often precedes OR is “coeval” with content as the poem develops.

Written in Bussokuseki-Style [575777 mora/syllable] lines): Bussokuseki-Style is a very rare Japanese poetic form. It has been found only in inscriptions found near the Bussokuseki-kahi (仏足石歌碑), a well-known monument in the Yakushi Temple in Nara. Most of the poems are invocations of praise for the Buddha. A few are on the impermanence of Life and the need to follow Buddha’s path.

The metrical pattern is typically Japanese, using lines of 5 and 7 on/onji sound units approximated by our Western language syllable. The style gives more room to the poet, adding, in effect, an extra 7-syllable line to the traditional Tanka: thus a pattern of 5-7-5-7-7-7 syllables.

The best plan figured out for a Martian calendar divides the Martian year of 687 Earth days into 24 “Bi-Months” of 28 days each

As Mars orbits the Sun, it completes one rotation every 24.6 hours, which is very similar to one day on Earth (23.9 hours). Martian days are called sols – short for “solar day.” A year on Mars lasts 669.6 sols, which is the same as 687 Earth days. Thus, the use of two dozen 28-day/”sols” is very close to 672 Earth days. An occasional “Leap Week” will need to be subtracted every so often to keep the Martian calendar accurate.

Editor’s Comments and/or Image Credits: Picture of the Day 11/10/2019 – Damaged human base in a Martian canyon – concept art by Colin Geller for “Lazarus labs” exterior in DOOM (2016) computer game.

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One Response to A Martian Memoir

  1. John Bamgartner says:

    Hi Wendy/Frank – enjoyed the poem as an accompaniment to my morning coffee. Keep them coming.

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