The Edge of Tomorrow 2 - 1992
Poems - Nicholas Wordsworth
(page 10/13)

A Deep Sky

The mightiest of planets known
Has no ground, no sea, no land;
No stony peaks, no vales below them,
No waters, nor a sandy strand.
No solid flats or heights, no deserts,
On no plains, no rivers flow; Abysses are of the dense air
And no seafloor lies below.

An ocean of clear gas, outmost
Tenuizes, fades to space.
This surrounding hydrogen
Overlies a garish place:
Carmine, cream and jasper hues
With endless profuse shades beside;
And to the south, most brazenly
Spins the worlds-wide crimson eye.

Cold the highest cloud decks are,
Warm colours, notwithstanding -
Like land they'd look, from low above
But there would be no landing.
Bright the Sun would be, though small,
With four disc-moons by night,
Though below the mottled mists
Ne'er a Sun-shape would reach sight.

Hyper-potent tempests rule:
Lightnings that could light a nation,
winds with force like none on Earth,
Calm might seem a vitiation.
This vast world turns in ten hours,
Winds are not by landforms stowed,
Deep-born fires drive them swifter
Storm-belts circle round the globe.

Hurricane-spun layers of clouds
For miles untold are plunging cliffs.
Vivid-lit, the reds above,
Are dusky broun in Sunless depths;
Thunder, though, wind-roar, and heat
Can but increase with deepness,
So too, and very even, grows
The weight with which the airs press.

Height-born regions, on Earth's mountains,
Snows, and scrub, and forests lie;
Equating, by their different natures
Vaporous strata of alien skies.
Crystals, ice-formed, ammoniacal,
Build the cloud-belts' upper rim;
Lower, waters - ice and liquid -
Earthlike clouds, in spaces dim.

Men of learning, in their dreams,
See lifeforms in that aerial world:
Creatures of foam, like living mists,
Science set free in fancies unfurled.
Skyborne squids, and bubble-beasts,
Fragile airbags, miles across,
Hunters, lions and sharks of haze;
For proof, the erudite are lost.

But life or no life, it might live
Only within a tract not deep.
Above, too cold the thinning airs;
Below, the pressure mounts, and heat
Grows far beyond where water boils
A layer of steam seethes, dark miasma,
Chemistries run wild, far down,
But as heat soars, their forms are simpler.

Here at last, the sky may end
(The shift, of course, cannot be sharp),
But under monstrous pressures, air
Is forced to fluid, churning dark.
Farther still this vast descends,
So far down, ever hotter, dense;
The Jovian sky, though deep it be,
A mere gauze is, on depths immense.


Heat and cold share this prey,
A tiny planet, improperly shaped.
Long and oval is its way,
Bisecting those of worlds sedate.

Seen as but a speeding star
By eyes of Earth, through lenses caught,
Fiery close to frigid far,
Across three realms the Sun has wrought.

Metals melt, in inmost zone;
The second one can harbour life.
In the third, no world is known;
Worldlets, naked and cold, are rife.

Winters spent with its own kind,
Maybe with them its course once lay.
Rare, though, closeness will it find
A lone rock, yesterday and today.

Many craters it may bear -
From aeons in nigh-empty voids
Or it may melt, circting near:
A slate-wipe regular, like tides.

Hell unfeigned - Icarusian,
Nadirs exceeding Mercury and Mars.
Speaking true, an allusion
To Satan; vilest of "little stars."

Nicholas Wordsworth