Getting to Mars

“I’ll be dead before we get to Mars,”
I mumble loudly into my beer.
“Much less back to the moon!”
To the young women behind the bar,
it’s not hard to believe;
I’m already old,
old enough to be their grandfather,
this gray haired guy who comes
in all too regularly,
who rambles on about
Apollo, shuttles and
“2001” space stations.

To those sitting near,
those faces that are familiar,
from my frequency here.
I’m “The Space Guy” –
I guess there are worse names.

Yes, I believe there should be
a national holiday, no,
an international holiday,
for the moon landing.
We give a stupid rodent
more attention than our
first step to the stars,
and it only works one
lousy February morning!
And the Earth,
“the whole bleedin’ Earth”,
(I sometimes take on British affections)
only gets a day, Earth Day;
started right here in Wisconsin,
where I sit on this bar stool,
even though no one knows by whom.
I’ve asked them, they don’t know.
What has education come to?

“What do we take as important?”
I shout to myself over a fresh tap
As it is set in front of me.
The months long lead up to Christmas,
That starts before Hallowe’en
where Thanksgiving isn’t even a speed bump.
But no, it isn’t that, it is sports.
The ever present presence on all
the TVs in every bar in every city.
It is sporting events, they play
the National Anthem, making baseball,
and all the rest, not our National Pastime
but the National Religion, the reason
we are what we are, American.
It is patriotism, standing for the National Anthem,
cheering wildly before the last verses are even sung.
Heaven forbid you don’t remove your hat,
especially if it has a logo for the other team!

And the smell of America
is no longer fresh air
whipping over the plains and
the amber waves of grain,
it is the fast food restaurant,
that now fights for your morning
as well as your lunch and supper,
and gives toys to your children
and gives you value menus to
save that money you earn.
Oh, I love it, don’t get me wrong,
nothing like the smell
of French fries in the morning.

But they have heard it all before.
“Moon man” going on and on again,
the poor drunk.
I suppose I might be considered “atmosphere”,
and they know my credit card is good,
at least for the moment,
so they haven’t asked me, yet,
to take my first step towards the house
that was a home, but has gone
dark and stale; empty but for
dust motes in the mornings,
that fall and cover
every surface, fill every corner;
where I will refuse to turn on the heat
even though it feels like November
and I am shivering, inside and out;
as I contemplate my next steps
I watch the last pitch of the game,
the players high five,
the crowd cheers,
as if the problems of the world
have been solved
while the space program dies.
Convinced I will be dead
before we get to Mars.





Roger Dutcher lives in Beloit, Wisconsin where he enjoys jazz and wine. He has been a poetry editor at Strange Horizons and The Magazine of Speculative Poetry. His poems have appeared in Asimov’s, Modern Haiku, Northeast, and others, both genre and mainstream. He has won a Rhsyling from the Science Fiction Poetry Association.