The American Academy on Mars

p
o
e
m
s

Techno by necessity,

classicizing on a glorious whim,

our buildings house the persistent idea

that no stretch of terrain anywhere in the universe

cannot be balanced on a fulcrum placed midway

between wilderness and city, the howling emptiness

and the whisper of a weary and thereby corrupting plenitude.

 

So the art we foster is mostly pastoral.

The science, too. Among our brightest minds

are some we haven’t seen for years, so lost are they

in the wilderness out there, where, each with its amusing mix

of specialists, our teams of scientists seek the savage numbers

that theory requires but will know how to utilize only when their infinite

is turned into a garden and taught to be elegiac. And to fear death,

 

though they will never know it. Numbers can’t know anything.

Unlike our scientists, who build all sorts of certainties upon them.

Just like artists, to hear them tell it. The confident ones, at least,

and thus the numbers need us, to make them feel useful

 

here at the Academy, where we battle the grains of dust

whose countlessness is inedible, our daily bread, but also

back on Earth, where the semi-annual report on the full range

of our activities is eagerly awaited. Or so we imagine,

along with the possibility of green in this raw and rusty place.

Carter Ratcliff is a poet and art critic. He recently published his first novel, Tequila Mockingbird.

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