Astronomers love hydrogen, And hydrogen alone – The primal, elemental gas, That lights up the unknown. They’re not so keen on helium, But tolerate it still – But hydrogen’s their number one, They just can’t get their fill !
Astronomers hate lithium, As dense and overweight, And ev’rything beyond it is Too scarce to even rate. They label them as ‘metals’, As a grey and seething mass – Yes, even carbon, even sulphur, Even chlorine gas.
Astronomers know metaloids Have properties each shares, But magnets and electron soups Are no concern of theirs, And dabbling in impurities Requires them to atone – For ‘stronomers love hydrogen, And hydrogen alone.
Ravens are birds of the North – From Greenland to Mexico, Skye to Morocco, In India, China, and Asia Minor – Above the equator, but never below. Bird of the forest and bird of the desert, Of mountains and towers, Kamchatka to Fargo – Bird of mythology, bird of the present, From Draco to Leo, but not on the Argo. Perhaps, like the sailors of old, They fly by the Pole Star, second-to-none – Or maybe they just like the cold, Their feathers too black for the tropical Sun.
The clocks have changed, the dark has grown, The evenings have started early – Even as I leave the office, Day has gone and night is surly. Gloomy hordes of wrapped-up figures Cram onto my flood-lit train – It’s come at once, this blackening, As Winter leaps out once again. Trudging home from the lonely station, Beneath the unexpected stars That just last week were veiled in dusk, I see Orion’s back – and is that Mars ? It’ll only last a few days, this, Till early nights are nothing strange – It’s just the sudden shift, that’s all, When the dark has grown and the clocks have changed.
Well, here we are, my friend, and welcome to Volume Two. Not the book I promised, alas, but this will have to do. I hope the climb was not too taxing, hope it’s clement weather – It’s best of all at suns-set, when all four go down together. If you’ll excuse an in-joke, then this very situation Is a little like that final message God left his creation.
I’m afraid I’ve got some very bad news, But maybe you’ve guessed – seen through my ruse: We’re dying, you and I. Maybe you guessed. Here ends our bloody pointless noble quest. Those knobbly leaves that saved us – well, they saved us for a while; It seems they hold a toxin that has gathered in our bile.
Look, I know, I could go back and let you know With footnotes, perhaps. But then, where would you go ? So I’ve lied to you instead. A sin of omission, I guess, but you still end dead. But if I had, you’d have starved all the quicker – This way, I gave you a hope, a flicker, One which I shared at the time. Now I know better, and fully accept my crime To not let on that we are cursed; Of all the choices, this one seems least worst.
Either way, we’re never going home. But hey, how many can get to roam Across this glorious galaxy, Across such worlds and moons as we ? And so much life ! Such gorgeous beings – It has been fun, all our sight-seeings. For us, the galaxy displays her best – And if we’re cursed, then surely too we’re blessed !
So, the journal once more takes its place To aid the next poor refugee in space, So terrified and all alone, A long long way from home. And they shall read this letter, too – So after all my words, please add a few words of your own. Perhaps there are some here already, under mine, From voyagers before your time, who spared a thought to share a line In many voices: calm, betrayed or manic. To all of you now facing death, I urge you with my final breath:
Are you still following, my friend ? Or am I writing pages that you’ll never even read ? If you are still there, then it’s pretty guaranteed That you’ve noticed that we’re almost at the end. For this is the last page of my book – “But how can it end here, before we’re homeward bound ?” Well, do not sweat, my friend, for I’ve another tome I’ve found, So it’s less a final chapter, more a hook. You might be getting weary, feeling down – But dude, I swear I’ve plenty more to tell you – don’t give in ! You trusted in my guide this long, for all its help within, Now trust me one last time, and head for town. Here’s a map to show you what I’ve planned: So look out for a pub with an anti-matter sign, Go in, and tell the barman that you are a friend of mine, And let him take this journal from your hand. He will exchange it for a single page, Then see to it this notebook gets returned where it began, To help the next poor traveller to follow, if they can. And you yourself must start your second stage. So stick it out – I mean, you’re still alive ! Just follow the directions up the valley to the second book I know it’s cloak-and-dagger, but the view is really worth a look, And all will be explained when you arrive.
I’m sorry for yesterday. I’m sad to say, I’m feeling rather Marvin now. Maybe you are too – but hang in with me, We’ll pull through, you’ll see – We’ll make it back somehow. I met an alien last night Who cheered me up a bit We didn’t speak, but what a sight ! They had these scores of legs that wouldn’t fit And just kept falling off, Unless they took great care to never cough. I guess there’s evolution working there, But God knows what it is. Perhaps they really had it bad, Far worse than me, far worse than this. Perhaps. I guess that shouldn’t make me glad, But there you are. I even smiled, the first time in, oh, I don’t know. Anyway, on to the next strange star, On to another Brave New World we go.
Another trip to another moon Of another world of another star That gets me nowhere nowhen soon, And leaves me every bit as far. And after all my pointless striding, You’ve the chance to stride it too And just like me, you’ll find no ride To take you home to Planet Blue. So what’s the bloody point at all ? Just what’s the bloody point ? We tour the stars, but every call Is just another same-old joint, With just the same damn knobbly leaves, And just the same damn hopeless chase, And petty clerks, and scummy thieves, And endless miles of endless space.
Do you ever feel like, I don’t know… Like maybe someone else Could live your life much better, Than you do ? I get that, too. I sometimes feel I’m wasted, Seeing all this damned adventure, When I wish I’d never tasted But a tenth of all this new. I mean, I try to be amazed, But surely there are others, Far more worthy, far less glazed, Who would dig this cosmic zoo. Ah, don’t mind me, mate, I’m feeling just a little blue. I guess I must admit, I’m nothing great, I’m not the best – I’m on the B-Ark manifest Without a clue. But here I am, and here you are, We have to stride from star to star, For if we stop and sulk, we won’t get very far, It’s true.
Isn’t it amazing news How ev’ry airport looks the same ? A giant warehouse full of queues, I know, let’s play a game: It’s guaranteed your flight’s delayed, So take a look around the hall – I know they’re aliens and all, But still the same old cavalcade:
I spy, with a weary eye An alien who’s lost his bags, An insectoid afraid to fly, A duty-free with tat and mags, A child so bored she barely coping. And security by goons: (They’re utter vogons, those baboons, With tentacles for better groping.)
Never mind. At least you’re through – They don’t much like us hitchers much. Now find a UFO with crew Who’ll let you ride by paying Dutch. But just before they close the dome, Look back. For ev’ry grief and queue, And ev’ry alien in view… It’s good, for once, to feel at home.