Mandira Pattnaik

The Hope Mission is Nearly to Mars and Scientists Can’t Wait

It’s February 2021, they’re nearly there, everything’s looking good, her primary emotion is happy now, scientists track the long trek, Ajey has no time to call back, ten unanswered calls.

The focus is all on Mars, the challenges of landing. She’s sulking, and can’t wait. At the dinner table last night, the way he measured his words, black void of pauses, she knows the brink is near.

Every minute is a celebration. The team at the Mission exults, rise and fall like piano keys. She tends to the kids, the cats, the peonies, the repairs. Everything a father, if he weren’t absent.

Mars is dead. Red with dust. Too many abrasions. She’ll watch the landing on TV, the first picture of Olympus Mons, its canyons deep and wounded. Dried to the bone. There never was wetness.

Before Hope Mission there was hope. Routine satellites in orbit. Circling. Way it is with bonds. Now it is about waking up in cold sweat, waiting for him to announce a crash, then maybe hearing

the wheels of a packed suitcase being dragged down the stairs. About finding solar flares, giant spicules consuming the numbness, leaving all the hollow spaces to pulsars to send radio waves.

She lies in her bedroom. Her pulsars will not be found in the same place. They’ll form after the debris from the explosion has spread into space. Ajey will return to document their magnetic field.

Mars image taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, July 2018.

Mandira Pattnaik’s poems have appeared in Press53, MayDayOnline, Eclectica, Panoplyzine, Not Very Quiet, West Trestle Review, Variant Lit, and Feral Poetry, among others. “Love Poem to the Peepul” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2022. Her work finds inclusion in over 150 journals across fifteen countries. More at

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Spring 2022