The First People on Mars and Other Poems


The First People on Mars

No children, not at first. But one teacher,
at least. There by the starboard side,
tapping his screen. And a journalist too,
unused to the view. Her hands a blur
over a Blackberry. More engineers
than you could count, pocket-protected.
Scientists everywhere, tying their shoes.
You can always tell the military folk
by their even stance, their steady gaze.
Then the others—fidgety, crumpled.
The unwanted, if not the unwashed.
Some businessmen for sure, greening
their evergreen hands. A lawyer.
More lawyers, who go now by other
names: managers, thought leaders,
scrubbed up in suits. Consultants,
doing whatever they do. An accountant,
swearing off columns, trimming
his nails. Then the singers, the dancers,
the musicians. One from Vegas, certain
the stars can’t be worse. Washed out
of Nashville, or Kentucky. One dressed
as a peacock, perched on the ship deck.
And of course there are writers.
And artists. In love with one or the other,
not at the same time. That man you met
only once, in a lime-green coat. The stranger
who guessed your name. Every classmate
or waitress or unforgotten friend whose face
gets in line in your mind. You could belong,
you think. Whatever’s been said. Your jolting
suitcase. Your one, quavering hand.

Wanting a House

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