Once Carved in Marble                                            

by Deborah L. Davitt

A flat orange plain, a plate of dull land,

strewn with rocks and rubble; no concave

or convex to this place, no uncertain

wavering of heat in this cold, thin air.

How strange to find a body on that plain,

stretched out in his suit, his red blood frozen

pools, rapidly subliming into air;

murdered, surely, but not one of us.

No match for him in colonial forms,

no record of him on any flight here;

he shouldn’t exist, he didn’t exist,

and yet, Martian soil filled his wounds;

Martian isotopes had infiltrated

his blood, sign of long habitation.

Rumors swirled—a corporate spy,     

a stowaway, an alien disguised.      


I studied his face in the morgue, outlined

in rusty fines—an Etruscan nose,

short hair, a red-tinged and brushy beard

concealing lips made sterner by death.

I’d seen that face before, carved in marble,                                                             

molded in bronze, but I spoke my thoughts

to no one; to do so would court more

derision than the alien theorists.

We couldn’t accord much dignity in

farewell; could send his body to no

one, speak no name at his funeral, but

we buried him in the garden dome.

When I visit, I whisper the name

I suspect over the grave, and sometimes,

it seems as if the plants stretch

towards me as towards the sun.

*photo of Head of Mars Ultor (the Avenger), 2nd century CE

By Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany [CC BY-SA 2.0


via Wikimedia Commons

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