Mars Ever Nearer

Alternating Current Press
Oct 9 · 3 min read

Poem by John Jay Speredakos

Twenty millennia ago
when we made spears,
we did so, gazing at you.
We chipped flint,
scraped hides
and sang our bison songs
in soot and pigment.
We begged old bones for marrow.
Wrapping sinew, binding
stone to wood, we crouched
on red clay
inventing new vocabulary:
to stalk, to hunt, to terrify
to defend
against every sharp thing
including ourselves.

In shadow
we painted our faces
ochre, stretched skin
till it pounded,
and gathered twigs
to feed your crimson
fury. Your blood-flame
sears our eyes; we raise
our sulfured veins to you.
The white smoke rises.
We scream your fire.
peering through dark branches
you glowed approval,
so we made you
God of War.

You lurk in lovely places.
Like Normandy. Sparta. Hastings.
You galloped with Genghis Khan,
loaded longbows at Agincourt,
stiffened limbs at Gettysburg.
Sun Tzu wrote your biography.
In the killing fields of Khmer Rouge,
you stirred the pot, and grinned at us.
In mustard gas and mushroom cloud
and shrapneled flags you beckon;
at bloody dusk your colors flap
while both sides slip away.
When Augustus howled
for his lost legions,
demanding their return,
it was you who whispered, “Never …”

What did you think of us, I wonder,
when you crouched in the phalanx
at Thermopylae, and picked your teeth
on the Persian arrows? Were you
ashamed when we dared show
mercy? Or did you blush with pride
at the slaughter, at the wailing
and waste, the endless parade
of penetration? We remain
your eager children, grateful
for the chores. You spoil us
in skirmish, in genocide, in famine.
And if we’re very, very good
perhaps a holocaust. Meanwhile,
the Tooth Fairy tiptoes in
and leaves a hand grenade.

Your black-bearded sons —
Phobos, Deimos —
flash scorpion smiles,
forked tongues flicking,
while you circle closer now
than ever before.
Close enough
to revel in the embers
to sift the white ash
to splash the black puddles
to gnaw the young bones.
Close enough
to smell the charred cinders
and touch the cold stones
of every fire
we light for you.

JOHN JAY SPEREDAKOS is a New York-based actor and writer with a BA from Muhlenberg and an MFA from Rutgers. He has performed on Broadway, in film, and in TV; and he is a devoted daddy to Calliope. His poetry appears in magazines, journals, and anthologies. More information can be found at . This piece first appeared in earlier versions in River Heron Review and Chaleur Magazine.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Alternating Current Press

Written by

Indie press dedicated to lit that challenges readers & has a sense of self, timelessness, & atmosphere. Publisher of @CoilMag #CoilMag (

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

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