When the first Martian knocks, I open the door
with a bowl of chocolate, suckers, and quarters.
This Martian is a typical Martian: green skin,
long thin limbs, and maybe three feet tall.
The Martian’s eyes glitter. I ask, Who are you?
The Martian is silent. Then a Fairy, Superman,
and two Military Specialists crowd the porch
holding plastic gourds. I extend the bowl of candy.
Thank you! says the Fairy whose wings shiver.
She dashes down the steps into the night.
Then Superman, the military, they all leave,
but the Martian remains. I ask, Where’s your mom?
I scan the street and note my neighbors
on their lawn pretending to be stuffed dummies.
As the Fairy climbs their driveway, they growl.
I study the Martian, then glance up and down the street.
I do what any normal person would do.
I take a limp hand and pull the Martian inside.
Judging from the changes that I have seen to occur from year to year in these spots,
one could believe that these changing grayish areas are due to Martian vegetation
undergoing seasonal changes. ∼Étienne L. Trouvelot, French astronomer, 1884
The Martian ate my comforter, mattress pad, and dust ruffle.
I only left the Martian in the bedroom for a moment as I dashed
to the guest bathroom to lay out toiletries, a towel, and washcloth.
There was batting everywhere. Large billows of spun polyester
on the floor, atop the fish tank, against the screen as the wind blew.
Long brown and maroon scraps, which were once my 500 count
Egyptian cotton sheets, draped from the lamp and dresser.
The Martian stood there in the middle of it all. No look of guilt. No
bulge in the belly to belie the act done. No sign of recognition.
This is where you sleep, not eat, I said. The Martian’s eyes
were flat and empty. I reached to grab a three-fingered hand,
but the Martian backed away as if I had done something wrong.
As I sort and scoop compost into the wheelbarrow
the Martian coughs and says, We’re not from Mars.
I crouch on my knees and push aside brittle leaves
from the worms and refuse. I respond, If not Mars,
where are you from? I glance from the hollow stalks
of sunflowers and withered arms of tomato plants.
The Martian sweeps away a swath of pine needles.
In the dry silt beneath, the Martian draws a canal
in a desert of saguaros. Next the Martian sketches
bison on glacial ice and spears inside Mammoth Cave.
Third, the Martian traces a labyrinth, a ball of twine,
and Minoans writing lists in a dead language
no one has yet to translate. You’re a lost people,
I infer, an unknown. The Martian adds a fourth image,
a galaxy of stars and planets and a medieval sundial.
All these people, the Martian says, have been named by you
because you didn’t know what they called themselves.
I begin to ask about the outline of three large moons,
but the Martian grabs my hand and pulls me up
until my palm is flat against the Martian’s green chest.
Shhh, the Martian says, We’ve never been lost.