The Canals of Mars

Each night I coax Mars into my vision’s tunnel.
Channels of Mars furnish deserts, irrigate seams.

My Mars breeds beings, twenty times my size,
tends desiccated fields and gurgling craters.

My Mars mails hours to a Hades signal-scape.
After the harvest, my Mars blushes deeper rust.

My Mars hibernates till the compass of our hearts
thaws in my breath. My Mars tattoos its face

with scars for me to augur by. My Mars dissects
its mistakes as a daily drill. My Mars will mother

when I cry, lure me to its window with a wail,
and dream of when I resolve to come for good.

My Mars teaches what to make of the little left
of myself. My Mars refuses to speak about us.

My Mars is a sight that sighs at leering minds,
nullifies night while spinning under my eye.

My Mars treats all eyes as spies. But why, Mars,
does the sky shut its lid when I expose your prize?

Mars, you close in on my eye, veins that score
your body, and my eye sees my Mars, my eye.

Questions and Answers

What inspired you to write this poem?

While doing research for my current poetry manuscript that focuses on geology, I learned of the work of Percival Lowell, an astronomer and builder of a famous observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Lowell wrote several books that popularized the idea of life on Mars, based on his observations of what appeared to be canals on the planet’s surface. Many scientists disputed his claims, but Lowell was adamant in his belief. There are no canals on Mars, obviously, and it’s possible that an optical illusion is what led to Lowell’s mistake. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by his unshakable certainty, and I wanted to tap into a kind of mindset that is wholly obsessed with an idea, even if it’s incorrect and the error is staring you in the face.

This poem “The Canals of Mars” originally appeared in 60th Anniversary Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 239 (2019): 107.

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