She woke one morning & said she was going to Mars.
She was twelve & wore kitten pyjamas.
Her dad was over the moon & mars-
halled the press. In an exclusive Skype call with Newsround
she announced, ‘I’m going to be the first to land, because Mars
says I’m Mars Girl so I’m changing my name. Dad,
don’t call me Fiona anymore. Mars
won’t like it.’ She swapped her kitten pyjamas
for some with red planets – the new Mission to Mars
range from M&S: perfect for pre-teen space cadets.
She tweeted @NASA to say she was their go-to girl for Mars
& @NASA replied, ‘Start training now.
You have to play the long game if you’re Mars
Girl’. So she studied hard for her planetary SATs,
with papers on the climate (chilly) & orbit (687 Earth days) of Mars,
signed up for space camps in deserts, practised,
twice a day on a trampoline in the garden, her mars-
upial bouncing moves for zero-gravity, made lists
of food for galactic pioneers, plumping for mars-
hmallows on the outward shuttle flight:
light on the stomach when the trip to Mars
was so long & lurchy through asteroid fields.
NASA kept her in the loop about Mars
missions, and she grew older. She studied astrophysics,
told talk show hosts she wasn’t mad: Mars
was her destiny. Her foot would be the first to touch it.
Her pyjamas were a blue velour spacesuit with Mars
Girl in glittery red thread. Her dad re-mortgaged the house.
‘Mars,’ she whispered at night, ‘I’m coming. Don’t forget me.’ The Mars
race between China & India heated up
& for a while it looked good for Mars
by 2040 if she changed her citizenship, but computer-simulated
landings still ended in fiery disaster. The funding for Mars
research dried up. She got ill then well again
& Mars burned less brightly on the news. No one cared about Mars
any more, it was all black holes. Her dad died
still believing she’d be the first on Mars
but her pyjamas were whatever was in the sale.
She got ill again & her Mars-
shaped heart couldn’t save her.
She didn’t need NASA & their Mars
mega bucks then. She just closed her eyes & there it was.
Not cold or windy like the books had said. She didn’t need a Mars
suit, only her kitten pyjamas.
‘It’s Mars Girl,’ she said. ‘I’m here.’
‘What took you so long?’ said Mars.
Katherine grew up in Cornwall and now lives in Cardiff. Her poems have appeared in The North, Magma, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review, The Interpreter’s House, And Other Poems, and Butcher’s Dog. Seren will publish her second collection in 2020.