Under the Frond Trees

Roberta and Wilhelmina Buckley Year 1.

They called us the space twins.
We died without ever seeing the planet.
We lived nineteen years on Earth
Studying, training, hoping, dreaming,
And three years in space, preparing.
Bobby was a plant biologist
And Billy was a pilot and engineer.
We fell asleep, planning to wake up here
But never did.
Something about our genes and coldsleep didn't mix.
But when they went to wake us and couldn't
They decided to leave us where we were
So at least our bodies could make it to Far Harbour
At least our carbon and trace elements
Could contribute our tiny share
To humanity's future.
So ours are the first graves on the new planet
In this quiet space
Under the frond trees beside the red river.
We hope lots of people join us
But not for a long time.

Yasmin Nasir Year 1

At thirty-six I was among the oldest to leave Earth
But it was a stupid accident that killed me,
Me, a capable crew boss,
With invaluable experience
On Earth and Mars,
Just the kind of person needed on a new planet.
It was during the first unloading
When we had three shelters up
And everyone was crowding down
After the excitement of the first landings
Before it all became routine.
I was in charge of the crew setting up the fourth shelter
The dome meant to be married sleeping quarters
The antigravity got glitchy
And as I was bending over poking at it, that dolt Tom Lee got sloppy,
Used brute force to back up the load,
Took my head straight off.
I didn't even have time to swear at the klutz
And I was famed for my swearing on two planets,
Would soon have been three.
But it was just a dumb accident,
One of those things,
Could have happened to anyone,
Except it was me it happened to.

Peterkin Nuala Year 2

I was the first baby born in New Harbour
I only lived six hours.
They called the alien disease that got me Peterkins,
I suppose that's some kind of immortality.

Gonzago Hammond Year 5

I was the virologist
who put together the Peterkins vaccine
in time to save the settlement
but in testing it repeatedly on myself
over a period of two years,
overloaded my immune system
so that I died in two days of a winter cold.

Sandra Christensen Year 11

I did not come all the way to another planet
To die in a swimming accident
I wanted to say
As the red water filled my lungs
But it turns out that indignation
Won't save your life, who knew?
I grew up in Minnesota
Came from Earth on the Crawdad
Worked for ten years as a mining engineer
Had three children with two fathers
And got to see purple grass waving in the breeze,
Climb frond trees
Breathe alien air
Find tin and bronze and iron and chromium,
Survive two cave-ins
Perished trying to save the life of a drowning woman who kept on fighting.
Didn't she want to live?
I did.

Jinnea Nuala Year 11

They said I'd feel all right when I had another baby
Once there was a cure for Peterkins
So I waited until there was a cure
And until I'd had another baby
But they were wrong -- why couldn't they leave me alone?
Nothing could help.
I left my new baby sleeping
And I walked right out into the red river
Not wanting to live any longer
On a planet that hid such terrible surprises.

Emilie Carron Year 29

On Earth they'd have been able to treat this cancer
Not here though, and I knew as soon as I saw it
That I was doomed.
Sometimes being a doctor is no fun.
But I'm glad I came to New Harbour
I wouldn't trade my thirty years here
For sixty more on Earth
Not just because it's beautiful
But because working to settle a new world
Finding vaccines for new diseases
Understanding an alien biology
Is the most rewarding work I can imagine.
I'm sorry I won't see my grandchildren,
I'm sorry I won't see what science does next
But I would have felt that whenever I'd died.
Since I had to die,
I'm glad I'm lying here in this memorial garden
Among the first humans to die here
Giving my old flesh a new home.
Aspen Rico Year 42

I was born here,
Had Peterkins as a baby, survived,
Grew up, not knowing any home but here,
Became a hydrologist and worked on the power plant,
Married, had children,
Lived a quiet happy life under the frond trees
Hearing my parents talking about Earth,
About blue skies,
Storybook animals,
And their long voyage here.
Then one day, new people came from Earth,
Wanting New Harbour for themselves.
I wasn't a soldier but I voted to oppose them
Then there was a loud noise, a shaking,
Was a bomb or what that killed me?

Tom Lee Year 42

I lived forty years with guilt
That in a moment's carelessness I took my boss's head off
A woman I respected, dammit,
Who I wanted to impress.
I was the mayor of New Harbour,
When I died, loved, respected,
Tamer of equids, builder of houses,
Father of children.
Nobody called me a bungling homicide.
Oh if Yasmin had lived she would have torn me off a strip
She would have blistered the air cursing me
And I would have long since forgotten it.
But it's she who has been forgotten
And I have had to live with it.
I almost welcomed sudden death from the skies.

Charity Senunu Year 42

I was the pilot of the death shuttle
The one that crashed
Killing me and two people
In the middle of negotiations.
You have to understand that I wasn't a villain.
We came from Earth on the new fast ship
No more crawling along with the antigrav drive
We just wanted a place to live
The Crawdads didn't own New Harbour,
Not any more of it than the town and the dam and the mines
And we wouldn't have touched that
We just wanted a share of the planet for ourselves.
They sent me to buzz the town
But I hadn't done enough flying in atmosphere
Turns out that altimeter is for something after all!
I guess I came too close.
Carol Christensen Year 69

As part of the peace treaty
We gave them the Peterkins vaccine.
Some people opposed that
Including my brother Stuart.
He wanted to give them a virulent strain of the disease instead
Because they killed his wife, Aspen.
I was sent to negotiate.
We kept our freedom,
They settled on the West Continent.
They gave us all Earth's art and science since we left
And settled down to be good neighbours,
Eventually even Stuart was reconciled.
Life here's good. Hard sometimes, but good,
And now I lie under the frond trees, near my mother,
With purple grass waving above us.