2012-2015 Milwaukee Poet Laureate Jim Chapson was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1944 and educated at San Francisco State University. He has lived in Milwaukee since 1976, and teaches creative writing at UWM. His most recent books are Daphnis & Ratboy, Scholia, and Plotinus Blushed (Arlen House, 2013). He has poems in the recent anthology Jack London is Dead: Contemporary Euro-American Poetry of Hawai'i (Tinfish Press, 2013).
He has neither a dog nor a cat; neither tropical fish nor parakeets. He has never held an elective office, and for as far back as he can remember he has not been living in Paris.
The mars-lander Curiosity has landed
in a landscape, scientists say,
remarkably like one of earth's deserts.
Getting there required
the perfect functioning
of an elaborate mechanism:
the descent with the heat-shield
jettisoned at the right moment,
the giant parachute deployed
then released, the retro-rockets firing,
the winching down by cables
from a sky-crane
which then takes off—a sequence
so bizarre only a child
could have imagined it, only
obsessive engineers made it work.
And so our Curiosity is now on Mars,
our careful attention, our
desire to know, our
which leads us always elsewhere.
We might discover water,
or evidence that water once was there
which might mean life
existed once and may have left
some traces still.
However, there are rumors life
existed once on earth
and left some traces here;
we might discover whether
it could be here still,
but we prefer to keep
our Curiosity on Mars,
where it will rove for years—
a useless if remarkably ingenious
piece of human workmanship;
in fact, a curiosity.