On seeing a photo of the surface of Mars in the newspaper

It looks like dirt. Earth’s desert rubble.

You’d walk on dust-bowl crunch.

Shadows attach to scattered rock.

Familiar terrain, but unbreathable.


Is it easy to recognize death in disguise?

Hard breath of a dried memory

of home, of what was when green cool

watered the slopes of time travel fantasy.


We are caught in now’s particulate,

terrain where our footprints, dim signs,

will tell a tale to other eyes,

if eyes erupt again in the infinite epic


we’ll never read. Another then will be

(this word slides back, wings forward).

I suppose. Do parentheses belong?

Aren’t we parenthetical? a shorter


sentence than the dinosaur, and on

Mars we’d have to breath with

gills of an imagination we (still)

think we have to spare. Jump ship’s


our habit, leaving trash, breath trapped

in the lungs of our desires—and what

(how) shall I name it – beauty just

happens, planetary leap of a music still


sounding, rubble in its bass line. Each

animal shred of phosphorous time’s map.

While everywhere continents galore, too

many cosmic weathers and strings attached


to solve the current longitude of any

waters, any breath or peace, and where’s

the next home wills us toward horizons

blue as imagined Martian waters?


What’s blue and happy? water’s

waiting somewhere for its creatures

to settle in, small bullet bodies

making fossils of the future. So


here’s this earthly water now, under-

grounded hope—a kissed smile, sunlight

still, cat’s agate gaze, red-tailed hawk

hunting daily from his telephone-wire perch


as I drive by, thinking of those I love.



Tobey Hiller

Tobey Hiller is the author of six books: a novel, four collections of poetry, and, most recently, a book of short stories, Flight Advice: a fabulary, just out from Unlikely Books. Her poetry and flash can be found in a variety of magazines and journals, online and off. She thinks the rivers are telling us something. Tobey recommends Doctors without Borders.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, August 21, 2023 - 15:18