Destination: Mars

I’m participating in the #NaPoWriMo challenge to write a poem a day during National Poetry Month. So far, it’s off to a fun start. I’ve been using Carolee Bennett’s poetry prompts, and today’s I thought I’d share because it’s so wacky and off the wall and not at all the kind of poem I normally write (although, you’ll note, it does feature birds and nature and water and my children and my husband, so I suppose it isn’t that much of a departure from my usual stuff).

Here’s the prompt:

Pack for a difficult journey
You’ve been selected to travel to Mars and allowed to pack two personal items, a supply of favorite snacks and a selection of digital media: one song for the in-flight playlist, a movie you’ll watch over and over and videos of three personal memories. (Yes, there’s “room” for more than that and you’ll have lots of time on your hands, but just play along. It’s a 2021 version of “what’s your desert island band?”)

Write a poem in which you prepare for the journey to Mars. In the poem, you could also prepare for any difficult passage, like sitting with a loved one who’s ill, watching someone you care deeply about make a big mistake, digging into your own dramas with or without the help of a therapist, etc. Bonus points if you can mention why the selections/sounds of a fellow passenger really piss you off.

Carolee Bennett, 30 energetic poetry prompts for napowrimo

And here is the result of that prompt:

Destination: Mars

I’ve become somewhat of a fanatic
for the feathered, so I bring
binoculars and a bird watching
field guide, even into the galactic

for this one-way trip to Mars.
They say they’ve found evidence
of H2O on the rocky red surface,
but I don’t expect to spot any mallards,

herons, swans, egrets, or pelicans.
Maybe some robins, a macaw or two?
I brought Rio, just in case the view
does not afford a habitat that birds can

tolerate. Blu is afraid to fly, and
if I’m being honest, so am I, which
makes this space trip seem amiss.
The guy in the seat next to me can’t

figure out his earbuds. He’s watching
2012 over and over. I’ve about had it
with John Cusack and can’t imagine
another seven months of this. I think

he brought tuna for his one snack, too.
I’ll have to find another seat partner.
There are few things I’ll miss on Earth—
spring greens, fall leaves, morning dew—

but the ones I love the most I brought
clips to watch, my cousins in the creek,
my husband river walking our first week,
our children skipping stones. I thought

of all the water memories, all the waves
and ripples, trickles, streams, and falls,
all the waterfowl and wildlife calls
we’ve heard and how in so many ways

the water has saved me, here I am
abandoning the planet where it flows
so freely. I see it shrinking out my window
seat. Now, I can’t stop weeping. Ma’am,

I call the flight attendant, can I get
a couple tissues and a can of Pepsi
to go with my Chex Mix? I’m so thirsty.
I pop in the one where my sopping wet

children pick up pieces of shale rock
and frisbee fling them over the surface
of bound molecules and they bounce.
I watch it in reverse and it’s as if the rocks

are magnetically bound to my children,
bound to the water, bound to the Earth,
drawn back in by gravity. For what it’s worth,
I’d be happy to see even just one house wren.

Do you think they can make that happen?


There you go! Today’s poem exercise. I hope you have a chance to play with creativity today, whatever form it takes, for no purpose at all except for the sheer delight of creating.

Cover photo by Miriam Espacio from Pexels.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). My memoir, American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation, and the second volume of devotionals, The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others, will be released in 2022. Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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