Posted by: iansales | May 2, 2010

villanelle 1202

There’s panic on the ground in mission control:
an alarm’s sounding – it’s a 1202;
they can see a red light on the console.

But what does it mean? Quick! Hunt through the manual;
this is it: the radar for the rendezvous…
There’s panic on the ground in mission control.

The astronaut is demanding, go or no go?
Did this come up in simulation too?
They can see a red light on the console.

They don’t need it for the descent, they must be told;
there’s too much data for it to chew.
There’s panic on the ground in mission control.

Turn off the radar, it’s not needed in that role –
an easy fix, that’s all you must do.
They can see a red light on the console.

Disaster is averted, the pilot’s in control;
no bunch of guys about to turn blue.
There’s panic on the ground in mission control,
they can see a red light on the console.

Posted by: iansales | March 14, 2010

i wandered lonely as an astronaut

I wandered lonely on the Moon,
a man apart, spacesuit of white,
where on the ground grey rocks lay strewn
and in the sky the Earth so bright;
at my back, the LM shining gold –
sanctuary from this lifeless cold.

Two hundred and fifty thousand,
the miles I’ve flown to reach this sea
and on this arid orb to land –
though on this world no rain can be,
nor cloud float o’er hills and dales,
where only airless cold prevails.

I travelled here for all mankind –
a giant leap; I am the first,
and when I’ve gone I’ll leave behind
my footprints in the pristine dirt;
they’ll not fade, they’ll last forever,
mute witness to this endeavour.

A solitude deeply profound
enshrouds me as I bounce and run
across grey sand and rocky ground,
alone beneath a hot bright sun;
I cannot touch, I cannot feel,
it makes this world seem not quite real.

To come so far but not engage
with Earth’s nocturnal twin seems flawed,
somehow wrong, no urge assuaged
to touch and feel and know this world…
yet from a distance, we learnt more
of ourselves than we had before.

I wandered lonely on a plain
of sand and rocks beneath Earth’s light
across a cloudless Sea of Rains
where no drops fall, in endless night.
I rode my chariot of flame,
to Luna’s cratered lands I came.

Posted by: iansales | February 27, 2010

look back in wonder

I have seen attackships on fire
off the shoulder of Orion;
I’ve visited ring worlds, neutron
stars, planetoids and Dyson spheres.
I have trod the surface of Mars
and climbed the mountains of Io;
I’ve looked in the maws of black holes
generated by collapsed stars –
beyond the event horizon –
seen supernovae, red giants
and white dwarfs, and their denizens,
lived under skies bright with other suns.
I’ve fought invading aliens
and in turn been an invader
myself; I’ve seen the end of the
world many times and the seven
ages of man from first through to last.
I’ve seen history rewritten
in oh so many ways, and then
been to the future and the past.
I’ve flown in capsules and rockets,
spaceships and starships, across the
universe; I’ve piloted them,
been captain, marine, space cadet,
king, emperor and president,
explorer, warrior, Lensman…
on Earth, Barsoom, Arrakis and
an Orbital; and then I went
through wormholes and hyperspace to
other worlds, other dimensions,
seen aliens big as oceans
and creatures just like me and you.
I have travelled through time and I’ve
even seen the invisible
man; I’ve seen the improbable,
the implausible; I’ve lived the lives
of others in other times, on
other worlds, other races, genders,
saved the world and had adventures…
All this and so much more I’ve done.

Posted by: iansales | February 21, 2010

r.g.b mars

Mars is red and named for the god of war,
where red sands sweep like scythes across red plains,
from the cliffs of Mons Olympus to the shore
of Planum Boreum: lifeless terrains
of spirit and opportunity – yet
where no explorer has set booted foot,
trod Syrtis Major, climbed Tharsis Montes…
their name writ in red sand and history book.

Mars is blue – chaoses and mensae tamed;
rivers run through Noctis Labyrinthus,
Valles Marineris lives up to its name.
Twin to Earth, the blue planet; high Tharsis
home to new towns of new martians – some sent
willingly, some are transportees, and some
remember differently, their minds bent
in machines, implanting reasons to come.

Mars is green and as fecund as the earth;
intellects vast and cool scrutinize us
no longer with their green-eyed gaze, our birth
world is no prize, no incandescent gas
jetting across space. Perhaps the hungry
billions of earth now hunger from afar
with envious eyes; keenly and closely
they make their plans to conquer the green star.

Posted by: iansales | February 14, 2010


He cannot feel this world
though he stands upon its surface;
he cannot smell the earth
though he knows it reeks of gunpowder;
he cannot hear the wind
for there is no air.

He carries the weight of his own small world on his back.

The breeze across his face:
the fans of his PLSS.
The hiss in his ears:
a radio carrier-wave.
The coolness against his skin:
the LGC water-pipes.

He has known loneliness,
he has known it in the sky,
he has known it among amiable strangers –
insulated by a layer of his own making.

Here he stands, bent forward by wonder,
insulated by thirteen layers,
his view filtered through gold.

And he feels closer to his fellows,
to the distant human race,
than he has ever done.

Posted by: iansales | January 27, 2010

helm’s deep

Give the boy a sword
and let him stand with the men.

The enemy fills the valley from wall to wall –
if our line should falter and break,
it will condemn us all.
So give the boy a sword
and let him stand with the men.

They bark guttural oaths in their evil tongue
and beat savagely against their shields;
the drums cease…. It will not be long.
So give the boy a sword
and let him stand with the men.

Evil will take and will cleave asunder,
it will rape and pillage
and kill and maim and rob and plunder.
So give the boy a sword
and let him stand with the men.

Now the sorcerers weave their arcane spells –
our orders are clear: we stand firm
until we hear the warning bells.
So give the boy a sword
and let him stand with the men.

Shoulder to shoulder we stand unafraid –
it is on days such as this
that legends are made.
So give the boy a sword
and let him stand with the men.

The boy will learn his destiny this night –
he may not live to morning
but he will learn to fight.
So give the boy a sword
and let him stand with the men.

No age is too young when fate trumpets its call –
let the mountains shake, let the sky turn black,
let the blood flow freely: we shall not fall.
Listen! The enemy charge!
So take up your sword
and go stand with the men.

Posted by: iansales | January 22, 2010

my future has caught up with me, part two

Older and wiser, we slow from lightspeed,
yet Earth is older and wiser still. More
than a century has passed there, though we’d
spent a decade in frozen sleep aboard.
We are ghosts out of time, lost to all, spoil
of earth’s war against extinction and loss.

We gather on the bridge as our ship slips
through the heliopause, watching our new
home appear lamp-bright from the blackness — Ships!
Flitting here and there, swooping from and to.
The heavens are alive! A thousand lights
welcoming us to their alien realm.

Give me the protocols for first contact,
says the commander. The pilot and I
stare at him blankly, too stunned to react.
Our minds must still be frozen, we’re tongue-tied
and from the shock our wits have taken flight;
our sense of wonder has been overwhelmed.

Before we can speak, every screen lights
and there’s a human face filling each one.
People! I am open-mouthed at the sight
The pilot begins to swear in Russian
One of the faces, female, gives a smile,
says hello, and greets each of us by name.

The commander finds his voice: Greetings, he
tells her with interstellar gravitas.
We are from planet Earth. But so are we,
she says, and her grin lights up the screen’s glass.
This sounds strange but we’ve been here for a while,
building a new world here until you came.

FTL? the commander asks in awe.
The woman tells us she used the wormhole.
Not our wormhole? we ask; this one onboard?
How can that be? We’ve yet to reach our goal.
And she says to us: bear with me, it’s weird –
the maths is complex but it all makes sense.

You left Earth, she says, a century past
but you are only ten years older and
that’s time dilation as you went so fast;
so the end of the wormhole left behind
needed one hundred years to open here.
This much we know, and we nod in silence.

The end of the wormhole on your ship, though,
it arrived here after only your ten
years, and from that moment we could step through –
as if for a decade it’s been open
from the Earth to our world. It sounds bizarre
doesn’t it, she says; we think it’s odd too.

The commander says: but- but- but… how could
you use the wormhole to beat us to this
place? You’d have popped out in the ship; you’d
have been in here with us. You can’t exist!
Again she laughs. It’s just the way things are –
we travelled through time just the same as you.

This brave new world is not for us, we fit
neither as heroes of the present nor
travellers from history; stuck betwixt
one and the other – myself, commander,
and pilot: late to the party, never
to leave. Out of time… in every way.

… see part one here

Posted by: iansales | January 19, 2010

l.r.v. (driving on the moon)

On the lip of a crater, he
pushes the T-bar to the right;
dust sprays up and out, the rover
skids and slews, and then wire-wheels bite…

Bounces back down the slope – no sound
but the whirr of PLSS fans, his breath
loud in his ears; chews up the ground,
writes history in the regolith:

these tyre-tracks, they will never fade.
His visit – it’s as much a fact
as a crater; one day his name
will be found on some future map.

He knows he won the prize, he’s one
of a dozen men to stand in
magnificent desolation –
the launch, TLI, the landing…

This is too much fun, this silent
rally through gunpowder-grey dust;
he should be doing some science
to have come so far, at such cost.

This LRV, it cost NASA
ten million – a few mill too,
the suit – but it doesn’t matter
because he’s driving on the Moon.

Posted by: iansales | January 11, 2010

my future has caught up with me, part one

Let’s light this candle, says our commander.
He’s our shepherd; we follow willingly.
Poyekhali! yells the pilot, and the
ion rocket ignites and sets us free.
I can think of nothing clever to say
so I just watch my home slowly recede.

A slow pressure pushes us from orbit
past Luna and into the friendless night;
Earth is now a coloured ball which could fit
in the palm of your hand, until its light
has gone as if it never were; I pray
we’ll not fly forever, that we’ll succeed.

Such a long way, Apollo 11
cannot compare. We are true pioneers,
carrying the lamp of earth where human
has never been and, on some alien sphere,
there to plant the furthest flag in the name
of our race ‘neath the light of another sun.

After days of acceleration, we
are at ninety percent c; and our small
world stretches and spindles as we break free
of Time’s straitjacket, its impersonal
metronome and our lives’ reference frame.
I feel years fly past, my three-score outrun.

The mission is all; it defines our very
existence. So too our cargo is as
vital to the universe we carry:
half of a wormhole, a tunnel which has
one end embedded in earth, the good soil
of home, a threshold we can never cross.

… to be continued …

Posted by: iansales | January 4, 2010

observer effect

As functional and contained as coffins,
ships hang like bats against the void
while captains haggle for air,
for fuel and supplies.
At rest but forever in motion,
they spin about the stars,
painted by the light of other suns.

A beacon flashes,
urgent in the void, as
one ship slips her mooring.
The gentle blown breath of her
manoeuvring thrusters, and she slides
easily and inevitably
from the station’s replenishing fold.

With illusory speed, she flees –
there are no visual cues against
the thrown cloth of black, vaster than empires,
and pierced by pinpoint furnaces which stare
unceasingly from the deep heavens.

she’s gone –
in pursuit of otherwheres,
I can see her destination,
a tiny dot of distant brightness.

I know she will be there much sooner
than the spent light of that remote sun
has taken to reach me.

If I could collect the photons from that distant star
and render the images the quanta encode…

I’d see the past as present:
dinosaurs thundering across a foetid Earth.

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