A Poem for National Poetry Month: A Caution on Gathak'nor

A Caution on Gathak’nor

When I started to write this, I was thinking of writing a nonsense poem. Instead, I ended up with a cautionary tale inspired by speculation of what the poetry of the future might be about, if it followed old Earth patterns of verse, and the storytelling tradition—and by the idea that not all the worlds humanity reaches will be friendly and benign, even if they look habitable. This verse was written on April 15, 2017, to celebrate National Poetry Month, and as the April 15 entry for Another 365 Days of Poetry.

I spasmed in the Gathak’nor
and tumbled down the hill.
In the wake of dandelions,
the bluebells seemed to spill
clouds of pus and whitened bone,
as I found the river bank
and tumbled o’er the brink
into a torrid torrent rank
and, in case you’re wond’ring,
why I was walking Gathak’nor,
when the planet is forbidden
and will remain so evermore,
t’is because I found a signal,
something faint that called,
and I rode the beacon down
and landed on a world
that used to be a colony
before its nature true
was clear
to those who tried to call it home,
as their lives it tried to steal,
and the whole damned world’s a death trap,
nasty to the core,
but I found the signal and ended it,
and ended lives that were no more,
for they had ceased to live
within months of landing there,
and then I left the site a-running,
fleeing like a hare,
hoping to make the shuttle
that I’d ‘borrowed’ for the trip,
and get back to the starship
before from its orbit it did slip,
but soon my side was stitching
and my legs refused to work
so my headlong flight
became a slow and stupid walk,
and then the spasms came,
and I fell into the creek
and I’d have joined the murky torrent,
but for the protocols I’d rigged,
and now I’m back aboard the ship,
in isolation while they purge
every particle of taint
that through my blood and bones does surge,
for the world of Gathak’nor
is more toxic than they say,
and those who fall within its atmosphere
hardly ever get away.

(Copyright, C.M. Simpson, April 15, 2017)


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