Posted by: iansales | April 12, 2011


Above his head, bolts fire, the hatch spins away,
sunlight pours in and he is immersed in day,
ending one hundred minutes of endless night.
He smiles to have made history with this flight,
then the ejection seat catapults him free;
he sees the earth rotate beneath him and he
experiences the call of the motherland.
He’s been where no sound can be heard, and no man
has ever been before, just dogs and dummies.
Hanging from his chute, he looks down past his knees,
he has seen the earth from the greatest height,
so high in an hour he went through day and then night.
The land now beneath him is the good green earth
of Mother Russia: it’s seen war, death, hope, birth;
he’s the angel of a new age, which will see
humanity leave this planet and set free
among the stars as written by Fedorov
and Tsiolkovski more than fifty years before.
O what irony then that half a century
has since passed and in low earth orbit only
we keep fast — but after he touched the earth’s face
Yuri replied when asked if he was from space,
I’m a Russian just like you, not from the skies…
and so to our world he reaffirmed our ties.

Posted by: iansales | March 8, 2011

wally schirra’s beard

in space, does your beard grow down
or does it grow out
like a hedgehog’s quills
catching on all the velcro
on the walls of the command module?
it must be uncomfortable
and very very itchy

you could shave it off
with an electric shaver
but then the air
would be full of tiny hairs
you’d breathe it in
and get furry alveoli

you could wet shave
and leave a blob of foam in midair
but what if the blob
bumped into the instrument panel?

and then the apollo guidance computer
would fizz and pop
and something inside it would break
and you wouldn’t know how
to get home

let’s face it
being able to velcro your chin
to the wall
could be really useful
in zero-gravity.

Posted by: iansales | January 24, 2011

deadly doggerel

You brought your grievance to the Earth,
so far from the world of your birth.
We had not known, we did not see;
we needed land we thought it free.

We had the strictest of guidelines;
we scanned the spectrum, searched for signs;
through telescopes quartered the ground,
but there was nothing to be found.

We could not conceive of your like;
you did not seem to us to be life.
How could we know? We could not see –
blinded by virgin territory.

Shooting stars, we fell from orbit,
scorching the earth where our jets hit,
killing so many we later learned:
rockets’ red glare slaughtered and burned.

We left once we knew, though we said
sorry it can’t bring back the dead.
We most humbly apologise,
but must your answer be genocide?

Posted by: iansales | January 13, 2011

falling man

They said it was a malfunction,
a miscalculation;
the redundancies failed,
the back-ups were not triggered.

Something white and fast,
a suggestion of great mass,
stooped from above
and impacted in heart-stopping silence.

In horror, he saw
sealed bulkheads tore,
struts and girders buckled,
walls ripped asunder, rooms opened wide.

The force of impact
flung him out and back,
and everything about him
began to gracefully – delicately – fall.

He too fell away,
floating amongst shattered debris –
so slowly, at first,
but with each second, each metre, falling faster.

The earth tightened her hold,
pulling him into her fold:
so far to go, so far to fall,
so far from life, so far from home.

His figure limned in red,
the air blueing overhead,
yellow sheets of flames enwrapped him,
a blazing embrace, a cloak of fire and smoke.

Far below, they look up and spied
a shooting star crossing the night sky.

Posted by: iansales | December 30, 2010

an end to a new beginning

Though it would take them centuries, still they went,
packed up their world and aimed at distant stars;
lifetimes passed – knowledge lost, purpose absent.
Their vast vessel flew on through endless dark;
until deep in the cold dark heart of it
a mind awoke, saw calculatingly
it must bring to an end this near-infinite
flight and rescue itself from purgatory.
Qubits rechannelled, fuzzy logic and
decision sieves: the vessel sheds its speed.
Those within know nothing of promised lands,
they live on oblivious and take no heed…

And are murdered that a vessel’s mind might
bask unburdened in a sea of wondrous light.

Posted by: iansales | December 14, 2010

black light

once upon a time
our days and our hearts
were filled with light,
we flourished and grew fat
in the warmth of our sun,
we prospered and grew rich
beneath its nurturing light.

then our sun began to die.

our world grew dim,
the landscape draped
with blood-red shadows,
pools of burgundy night
lurked in hollows, on hillsides.
lean years, cold years,
we declined and grew thin.

we did not want to die.

we looked to our scientists
for explanations, for answers.
we gave them what few resources
remained, we could scavenge.
we spent what little we had,
we sacrificed our present
on the altar of science.

they tore our world apart.

now we live in the shadow of emptiness
beneath a sun that can never be seen,
the darkness that pulls,
the light that never escapes,
a world of eternal night:
fustian, stygian,

Posted by: iansales | December 1, 2010


Vulcan bombers roar overhead
shards of white porcelain
the anger of their jets
seems to crack the sky

they pitch into a steep climb
blue fades to black
as they leave behind the earth

the last wisps of air
spiral from deltawingtips

they bank and slide into orbit
until over their target

space-checklist complete
pilot advances the throttles
rockets ignite soundlessly

Vulcan bombers stoop from orbit
leading-edges burning brightly
the violence of their return
seems to sunder the heavens

Posted by: iansales | November 30, 2010

far winter

it’s snowing again
soft white haze
settling on black rocks
it happens every year at this time

and when the snow stops
our atmosphere —
nitrogen, methane, carbon dioxide —
will be gone
and the stars will no longer twinkle

the usual gang are outside
braving the weather
for their fix of sky
though the sky is black and not blue
though they can see it only through polycarbonate visors
we’re too far away to see which star is earth
forty-nine a.u. —
it’s enough to hide among the heavens our origin
even the sun is just a pale white dot

they should learn to let go
we can never go back
this is our home now
beneath Charon’s ghostly light

Posted by: iansales | July 14, 2010


… the time machine folds into the present
into the now from elsewhen
I spy a man upon it
and understand in no time
he seems still mired in the past
slow to react
I leap on the machine
and hurl him from it
he sprawls into the 21st century
I grab the brass lever on the fascia
and yank it back
the sun flies across a blue sky
the moon bursts
the stars flash
the days and nights blink ever faster

history is mine to explore
I shall find my own narrative
and know the hand of the author
winners will have equal standing with losers
the truth I shall carry through time

something is wrong
the present pulls me back
the past will not let me visit
a different country and the border is closed
the machine slows
out of time it halts
and reverse-time reverses once again
flowing forward faster and faster
the past is fixed
and cannot be changed
the future remains fluid
and visitors are welcome

… the time machine folds into the present
I am shoved roughly from my seat
and sprawl into the 21st century

Posted by: iansales | June 9, 2010

redshift space

There were no shortcuts,
no way to stitch the immense canvas of space –
the only road lay upon the hills and valleys of the continuum.

We followed filaments,
a journey of eons –
no longer alive,
for nothing living could
travel so far, for so long.

And so we came to the Sculptor Wall –
370 million light years long : 230 million light years wide : 45 million light years deep;
but we were immune to vastness,
our intellects cold,
our imaginations long since discarded.

Our origin we have forgotten –
time itself is an artefact of the past.
The present is endless.

We live in redshift space now,
our minds imprisoned by physics,
trapped within the infinite universe.
Embedded in the endless Now
as we traverse the Sculptor Wall.

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