Distant Rovers by Russell Nichols

Durchgang by Gerhard Richter

when she tells me

i have all the emotion

of a robot        i think first

of curiosity (the martian

rover, not the serial

cat killer)                     and why

it wanders the desolate

planet              up and down slopes

steep and gravel-strewn          across

vein-like dry riverbeds and rugged

terrain for miles, treads red-rust

dusted from gusts of

winds carrying love

notes between craters: i dig

your style

as it sings “happy birthday”

                                                            to itself.          

and i think second

of opportunity a.k.a. oppy

the rover designed to last

only 90 days                but stayed

on mars for 15 years

till its death in                         perseverance

valley with the parting words:

“My battery                             is low

and it’s getting dark.”

and i wonder

to myself: are we searching

for signs of life                       or living

for signs of search?

how well-trodden the far-

flung landscapes         of loneliness                and singing

“happy birthday” doesn’t mean           you feel

like the former            or feel like you

deserve the latter.        but even if my heart is            nothing

but wires and sensors

            that’s still something              

                                                isn’t it?

                                                                                                                        isn’t it?


Russell Nichols is a speculative fiction writer and endangered journalist. Raised in Richmond, California, he got rid of all his stuff in 2011 to live out of a backpack with his wife, vagabonding around the world ever since. Look for him at russellnichols.com.

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