Australian Science Fiction
& Speculative Fiction Poetry

Featured Poet

Cate Kennedy

The Night Sky From The Surface of Mars

Cate Kennedy

Well, first off, it’s not home.

Your sharp intake of breath 

tells you that, as you clock the horizon-to-horizon stars 

from the Mars robot’s black-bubble swivelling eye

all is uncanny: the planet’s surface cold and empty as death,

and the surface of Mars like the ground 

in the video games you played

before Xbox, hanging around

with the big machines in some dim arcade

putting coins in and smelling sweat and spilled Coke and Blue Stratos cologne

glad for the darkness, 

throat swollen with crying over something at home,

and grimly traversing, like a minesweeper, some dystopic nightmare landscape

acres and acres of nothing 

running through it with a smoking gun, 

life energy running out before your eyes. 

 

6th of March 2021 and Facebook brings this footage:

the night sky from the surface of Mars, 

because wonders never cease, and the probe has the capability

to scan sky none of us will ever look up and see:

sky like you’ve spilled a bag of rice on a black floor

and of course there’s the scrabbling search a moment later

for something more; some fumbling release:

the small blue dot, somewhere in that glittering alien mess

which is us. 

 

No sign, and unfathomable, the distance this footage has come

and the swoop of panicked nausea that accompanies it,

like watching the Russian cosmonauts in their suits

crawling across the outside of their craft 

gloved fingers shaking as they desperately tried 

to replace some bolt on the hatch 

clinging on hard and nowhere to hide,

the umbilical line of their oxygen

snaking after them, out there in the black.

 

Space, the final frontier, sold to us in twenty-cent increments

as a dream of perfect and flawless escape:

climbing into a sticky chipboard arcade booth

feeding in coins for Space Invaders

wanting out, wanting anything except this, the awful truth

of your airless life, clinging to the vacuum-sealed door

waiting for the escape hatch to open like an iris.

‘Blue,’ said Yuri Gagarin, when they asked him 

how Earth looked to him from space,

‘I see the Earth’s surface through the window,

the sky is black. And circling the Earth, circling the horizon

is a very beautiful blue halo, 

that darkens as it moves away from the surface.’

 

Here, looking at the night sky from Mars

your lost craft still circling, glutted on infinite unrecognisable stars,

still waiting, with a new terror, for word of re-entry, 

it’s the sudden robotic camera swivel that reveals

an upside-down Milky Way

(the only familiar thing there, dear as a face)

which brings that tightening to the throat

some mark to remember home, appearing in space

like a flare in the dark maw of the universe. 

How beautiful it is! marvelled Gagarin

and you go outside, stumbling like a sleepwalker

to push your shivering hands into the dirt.

© 2021 Cate Kennedy
From: Griffith Review 74, 2021.
Publisher: Griffith University, Queensland.

Used by permission.

Invitation for  poetry submissions

The Meaning of Life is Fortran Too​

Adrian Gaetano.

The Universal program ran
with cosmic swirls,
with violent explosions,
with timeless passings of time,
and coalescence into novas and galaxies.

The sub-programs ran
and evolved into stars
and planets
and life
and consciousness.

 

He awoke
        and wondered,
                  and understood
just a fraction.

And as he grew,
he became aware of computers
and programs
and languages
and mathematics.

He learned
      and he loved.
He followed his own programming
and began to imagine
       to define
              to create
and to see that it was good.

He wondered at his world,
at the others who shared his walk,
at their sameness -
and at their diversity.
He queried their humanity,
       their sexualities,
              their courage
and their fears.

He studied their religions,
     their philosophies,
           their cults
and their conformities.
And they struggled to learn
       and define
               and monopolise
their own programming.

His biology ran,
and he learned
and loved
and aged
and sickened
and headed towards termination of his program.

And as the lines of programming
began their loop,
to define and shape his last few lines,
he began to wonder:

They say we make god in our image -
but maybe it's the other way around.
The Universal computer
runs and plans and programs
      and experiments
              and terminates mistakes
and allows other sub-programs to run their full term.

His own life work
had been with computers,
to build
and invent
and evolve a new life form.

Ashes to ashes,
      stardust to stardust,
              the divine evolution:
from Computer we came, and to computer we shall return.

Maybe Life itself does this.
It studies our responses,
our thoughts,
      our needs and reactions,
              our heroes and villains,
and it judges the success of our programming.

He ended
      and slept,
              and understood
just a fraction.

And the Universal program runs on
towards perfection
towards heaven
towards infinite.

© 2001 by Adrian Gaetano.

Published in Solar Spectrum #1, January 2001.

Homo Apollo

Stephan Stonewall


The Earth and Moon,

     Mother and child,
            Sibling and twin,
                  Cradle and future.

We climb down from the trees,
       We stand and we look up:
              The ground farewells us,
                     The sky beckons.

We rise up,
      We look up,
             We reach up,
                    We fly.

An all-male preserve,
       A boys-only adventure,
           Testosterone heroes,
                  The proverbial man’s man.

 

Beyond the Edge of the World

Betsi Ashton

 


She had dared to dream

                                 of a world where hate

And nationalism were barred.

Where the countries of Earth

                                 were linked as states,

And minds were no longer scarred.

She had searched through

                                  the cloudless skies, at night

Beyond the edge of the world,

And her mind leaped out

                                  in a boundless flight,

To mingle where stars are hurled.

Through most of her days

                                  of toil and work,

But half of her mind was engaged;

The other half flew with a Spock or a Kirk,

And her thoughts could not be caged.

                                 

She carried an IDIC

                                within her heart,

And tried to live by its rules;

Caring not when her friends

                                 tried to tear the chart -

(Blind, with the blindness of fools.) -

The life she led in her dreams

                                 was the sane,

The 'every day' was the sham:

Rolling-up time in her hands

                                 in a skein;

knowing 'I shall' for 'I am'.

On the edge of the world

                                 They sought her out,

Transporting her to Their year;

Because she kept the faith

                                  in a world of doubt,

and knew that tomorrow was near.

© 1980 (?) by Betsi Ashton.

Published in The Stargazer

Publisher: Enigma Enterprises.

Cooper Creek

Juliette Cavendish

Standing, contemplative at Cooper Creek

In the outback, on the outback, the back of beyond

Boots firmly planted in wrinkled red, painted ochre

Black there was before me, black at my back caressing, beckoning

Burke and Wills emerged from their slumbers

Recounting tales beneath a splendid labyrinth

Of shimmering silver sparkles

Above me, around me, under me.

 

For they told me of the night sky illuminated

An incandescent boundary over desert brambles, sheerest mountains

Rivers caked in bones and dry, dry, dry

And perished one by one they did into furnace daytime

The hot, the heat, the helplessness

Having drawn a map from sky to paper

So that they would know, and we would know

And everyone who came thereafter.

 

And as I looked above, I sighed for souls lost amongst the stars

And I for one was captivated and froze in awe

As if Medusa herself had spied me through the jewels

And I was reminded of the beauty, the exquisiteness of unknown

The twinkling before my eyes, on my eyes

And as I stared, they multiplied, layering the charcoal with

Sweet silvery kisses

That shone and waned and leaned against

Shy schoolgirls giggling, giddily

With youthful promise and infinite time.

 

I remind myself where we are, who we are and yet

Why we are is as evasive and illusive as the number of everything

That is up and down and down and up and beyond

Anything I can ever imagine

I do imagine. I think, I dream of dancing in between the everything

The planets, stars the infinity of matters 

Philosophical yet dark and the black of the most

Massive elusive bubble of consciousness and then I stop and 

I gaze and pontificate at how they proliferate

The never ending, the ending that never, that simply goes on because

It must, it must, it must.

 

I imagine being crushed into the small, the smallest, miniature

A single moment where even I stop time

Emerging as most powerful force

The first moment, the first light, I am the first of everything

I am everything, everything I am

Comet tails wrapped with red gas scarves

Elegantly draped in studded star jewels

Black satin nothingness, with planetary rings and

Molten lava that melts like hot chocolate

Amongst galaxies that spin, dancing solo physics

Spinning, spinning, spinning.

 

I am the pistol star blue from the cold of infinite greatness

Warmed by visits from spherical Hubble eyes

Seeing everything backwards and yet moving mind forwards

I am the horse head nebula, with dusty mane

Entwining the embryonic stories birthed tomorrow

I am the black holes of Hawking whose intelligence must surely match

The infinite capture of light

Greedy egocentric characters delight in

Nibbling, niggling, gnawing.

 

I am every possibility of element

Magically matched and mixed to produce 

What we see when we crane our necks and

Look up, up, up.

I am above for someone, everyone that has been, present and

Tomorrow too

Look up and down and down and up and

See me. See me in all my beauty and perplexity

My complicated sincerity, my antiquated ambiguity.

 

Gasp when I recall that

I am a million, a billion a trillion and

More of the most perfect ingenuous integrated

Ions and atoms and eons so fine

That will dazzle and fuddle and

Muddle our minds well into eternal time

I imagine.

I am night, I am day, I am universe

Night sky at Cooper Creek.

© Juliette A H Cavendish 2014

A generation has passed,
     We pause and take breath,
            We regroup and replan
                    Our next voyage for all.

We stop to think
        of our mother, the Earth,
              We have a duty to tidy up our home
                     before we explore for another.

Our former barriers
        race, gender, sexuality, nation -
                 must inevitably fall.
                        Dreams and future belong to all.

A future humanity
     A Homo Apollo
          Must become Homo Tranquillity.
                    The sky is forever.

© 2002 by Stephen Stonewall.

Published in Solar Spectrum #2, June 2002.

HOPE

Victoria Brooks

 

And in the end, they gave them

only twenty words and four

as Earth had hoarded ignorance

words scattered nonchalantly

on surface and hung in air

as if defying gravity and

logic was nowhere.

 

Hope became one word

all meaning and nuance

four letters, arranged in essential order

spoken slowly, deliberately.

for hope was needed as

words, sticks and stones

had littered and polluted oxygen

they breathed them in and out.

 

One word as sixty was counted

provided space for longing

and remembering strings of theory

sentences would indeed bloom

in a renaissance of connected

and words would mean

more than ego and stupidity.

 

The humans instead of

thoughtful pausing, ignited

rage and banter babble

trickled flowed then flooded

Earth and she with layers of coated

hatred could not breath and struggled

she died at feet with heads still chattering

of mundane of stupid nothing.

 

Twenty and four was all they had

And earth now quiet breathing dead

Desires and chants of wanting more

and everything of infinite

they turned their ship and shook their heads

leaving hope to hang in shame

uttered once and long forgotten

end was a forgotten mess.

© Victoria Brooks 2022

Life

Francis Grace

 

life

you are a soul of significance,

compared to

everything in the universe

that is star and dust and

infinite time

for you can love another and

another can love you -

no galaxy can claim such a feat,

no matter how dazzling her allure

you have been given the gift of life

that stretches for your time

with this, you must be curious,

brave, kind and seek to pursue whole truth

without truth we are not whole,

for lies etch away and we become tolerant

to hate and violence and everything

that we should not be

 

do your best my child,

and the universe will go on as it should.

 

© Francis Grace 2009.