by Michael R. Burch
for J. S. S., a "Christian" poet
On a lonely outpost on Mars
the astronaut practices “speech”
as alien to primates below
as mute stars winking high, out of reach.
And his words fall as bright and as chill
as ice crystals on Kilimanjaro —
far colder than Jesus’s words
over the “fortunate” sparrow.
And I understand how gentle Emily
felt, when all comfort had flown,
gazing into those inhuman eyes,
feeling zero at the bone.
Oh, how can I grok his arctic thought?
For if he is human, I am not.
Note: The coinage “grok” appears in Robert Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel "Stranger in a Strange Land." The novel’s protagonist, Valentine Michael Smith, was raised on Mars by enlightened Martians, and he often feels out of sorts on Earth, where he struggles to grok (understand deeply and profoundly) earthlings and their primitive, often inhuman, ways. Keywords/Tags: Mars, astronaut, alien, primates, stars, words, ice, crystals, Jesus, sparrow, Emily, Dickinson, zero, bone, arctic, thought, human, inhuman