Make all due haste through airless waste, my mother read to me.

Work quickly with your regolith! but I was only three

and didn’t understand the words

or where our ship was headed towards.


I don’t remember thinking Mars was much of a surprise,

but I was so exhausted and had sleep-dust in my eyes

that it may be my memory

is just a story told to me.


We moved into the colony.


My mother was a scientist; my father was a clerk.

My favorite game was stapling their important paperwork.

The first words that I ever read

were “biomass” and “teflon tread.”


And I was young, and I was sweet.

I washed my hands before I’d eat,

like any other little girl

transported to another world.


Oh, I was happy in my parents’ berth,

until they took me up to see the earth.


“Virginia Dare, look there,” she said, my mother, gazing at the sky.

The night was calm and clear. There were no wind storms near.

I saw the desert rusty red,

a double moon above my head.


“That’s Earth,

That little speck of blue.

That’s home, sweet,” she contended.

But there were many specks above,

and though I tried my best, for love,

I never did find Earth, and in the end,

I just pretended.


When I went back to bed that night

I cried the image from my sight.


It was not much time after this I got a little brother,

Its face was red as Martian dirt; I heard my father call it “Bert”;

And as it squalled I hoped it hurt, since it had hurt my mother.

The colonists, suffused with joy, cheered for the ugly Martian boy.


My mother’s head was hot as hell; still, strangers wished my father well,

and I hated that joke he would always tell:


“Now I know this is something I shouldn’t divulge,

but her belly was big as the Tharsis bulge!”


I suppose he didn’t know that she’d never get well.


I was sweet, did nothing wrong;

I’d rock the monster with a song,

and is it a misdeed

that sometimes I would read?


Make all due haste through airless waste! I’d whisper very low.

Work quickly with your regolith! And in its mind I’d sow

those Martian ghosts that haunt and hiss

in dreams, that rarefied abyss.


Men white with nitrate, losing their way,

eating their wives to save their lives,

sharpening knives,

telling the world they saved the day.


“You are one of them,” I’d say.

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