– 1 –
A noble race, these silent lords,
Who walk on four long legs
And speak with their ears.
Their plodding servants,
Two legs short,
Feed them, dress them,
Clean their houses, tend their gardens,
And receive no word of thanks.
And when these mighty princes travel,
They take their bondsmen with them,
Slung like packs
On their broad backs.
– 2 –
The Red God
His image hangs in every home,
His effigy in every window:
The Red God is coming.
Ahead of him, the people race
From place to place
Their cheeks and purses hollowed out
By this frenzy in the cold.
For he must be propitiated
With gifts and feasts and sacrifice:
Only those who stand unblemished
Will know his favour on that night.
And yet, among the true believers,
The infidels wait furtively –
Another’s name upon their lips,
An ancient heresy in their hearts –
All but lost in the noise and glare
Of the Red God’s triumph.
I first came across Martian poetry back in 2004, had a go at writing some and really enjoyed it. Only now have I got round to publishing it. This pleasingly whimsical form, which was briefly in vogue in the late 70s/early 80s, centres on describing familiar things in unfamiliar ways – as though you were a Martian seeing them for the very first time, with no prior understanding of what they are, how they work, what they’re for and so on. The images can be surreal, surprising, and sometimes rather charming in their deliberate naivety: there’s also a whiff of the delightful Anglo-Saxon riddle verses about them, too, which I really love. These two are about horses and Santa Claus, by the way.