Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
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And Beyond…

by John Erickson

The engines thrummed, the motors hummed,
And through the starry bright
Some vigil kept, some ate, some slept;
The ship sped through the night.
They loved to roam, the ship their home
They ranged from star to star;
And now and then set course again
For Sol, both dim and far.
When back on Earth they made their berth
What stories they would tell!
And all who came would sing their fame,
And all would bid them well.

And so the veil of space was rent
By the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

But sadness lurked, and longing irked
The hearts of spacemen great -
Long years defiled as time went wild:
So ruled the hand of fate.
A week in space at modest pace -
A year would Earth elapse,
A year on ship at faster clip -
A century, perhaps!
Though they were famed, though all acclaimed,
None had familiar faces:
Those last they met they must forget -
Now, strangers in their places!

This was the saga and lament
Of the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

The spaceman's fright - the speed of light,
Which long had been the barrier -
For time stood still, for time was nil,
All froze within the carrier.
And past this speed one must give heed,
For wise men great had spoken:
That space was bent, would not give vent,
And space would not be broken!
But keeping the rules was for planet-bound fools
And not for the crew of the Brent.
So a light and a half was punched in with a laugh
And o'er that edge they went!

So this taboo was broke and bent
By the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

Two lights were dialed, then three were trialed,
A dozen, then a score.
A streaking skim out near the rim,
Then back to Earth's green shore.
More fame was known for they had flown
Beyond the speed of light.
But faster still their aim and will -
So back into the night!
A thousand lights, a thousand nights:
The great discoid of stars
Was hard to find, they'd left behind
This galaxy of ours!

Alone in space man's soul was sent
By the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

As once before in days of yore
The first ship left its berth
To make one swoop, one graceful loop
Around the moon of earth:
So now the Brent was heaven bent
The disc ahead to girth;
Just once around, then homeward bound
For seas and skies of Earth.
For our own disc the course was fix't
And for our feeble sun,
They neared old Sol, they neared the goal,
They neared the homing run;

And songs were sung and cheers were vent
By the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

A hundred then, and now but ten,
The madd'ning pace was curbed;
To slow the ship without a slip
All watched and none disturbed.
All watching gasped as Jimmy grasped
The lever in his hand.
And now he spoke, "A steady stroke -
The stall to countermand!"
For at one light, if pause he might
Then fate was stern and just!
As "one" he reached the lever screeched
Upon a spot of rust!

A tragedy, this small event
For the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

A falter slight at just one light,
When viewed subjectively,
Is nothing worth - but back on Earth,
The time: Infinity!
So time stands still, so time is nil;
Of life there is no sign.
The hand is still, it never will
Go on to nine-point-nine.
But no one knew that time was through,
And no one lacked for breath -
For time and space must run apace
For either life or death.

And ev'ryone was confident
In the nose of Starship Alvin Brent.

A planet aged and tireless, raged
Around a fiery sun;
Some stars grew cold, while others told
Of brilliance just begun.
Some stars were dark, and some a spark
Upon a pinwheel great.
The pinwheels twirled and onward swirled
As if 'twere growing late.
A bird evolved, a hill dissolved,
A nation rose and fell,
A war was fought, another ought
To leave an empty shell!

Still ev'ryone was confident
In the nose of Starship Alvin Brent.

No fates enslave when souls are brave,
Salvation finds a way!
Though in the nose the crewmen froze
The cat was still at bay,
And at her heels with lusty peels
The cook in hot pursuit;
The cook to club, and then to rub
The cat, to save the loot!
With all their strength they ran the length
Of Starship Alvin Brent.
(At speed of light plus kitty's flight)
And Jim asprawl was sent!

Once more the halted heartbeats went
In the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

Both cook and cat were shouted at,
And both were shoved away,
"This sacred place, this throne of space
Is not for your affray!"
But then the crew looked out and knew
That ev'rything was strange.
The fearful cook when he did look
Cried, "Why this sudden change?
When I came in, the cat to skin
You all were froze in place!
And now in front, where Earth we hunt
Is naught but empty space!"

And now a wild acclaim was lent
To the cook of Starship Alvin Brent.

A galaxy was plain to see
Off ten degrees to port,
They circled 'round but sadly, found
'Twas not the proper sort!
They circled ten, and twenty then,
And plunged on through the void
Until, surprised, they recognized
The dear old home discoid.
A long patrol to find old Sol
(For he had wandered far).
No fate would foil - a can of oil
Was smeared from spar to spar!

And songs were sung and cheers were vent
By the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

Once more on Earth they made their berth,
Once more the ground they kissed;
The port, decayed, they viewed dismayed,
The cheering throng they missed.
No life they found, the Earth around -
But cactus there and here!
The rivers halt, the sea was salt,
The land was bare and sere.
No green or blue, the only hue
Was brown (and sometimes black).
While searching 'round, at last they found
An ancient marble plaque.

And thus a message had been sent
To the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

"Beneath there lies the Earth we prize,
Which e'er has been our home;
In mem'ry clear may all revere
Where e're we chance to roam.
This dry old shell has served us well,
But now it's had its day:
Our fruitless wars left scars and sores,
And rains have washed away,
And winds have torn, and left forlorn
What once was field and trees!
And so afar, to some new star
The hope of mankind sees;

And may our fate be better sent
Than the missing Starship Alvin Brent!

The crew of Brent to conf'rence bent
Atop that windswept hill.
"Where are they now?" "We'll find them!" "How?"
"But search we surely will!"
"Perhaps Orleave", "or Sidniveave",
"Sharlot", "Foreem", "Belleview" -
"Too hot!" "Too cold!" "The beasts too bold!"
No, none of these would do.
The flying cats, the singing bats,
And desert, brown and tan;
A world of ice: a paradise
For penguins - not for Man!

And no word here of Man's intent
For the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

The Earth had aged, the winds had raged,
And rains had washed away;
And Man had fought, and Man had sought
To find a better way.
He planted corn, his sons were born,
He built a better gun,
His ceaseless toil wore out the soil,
As colder grew the sun.
Then mankind left the world bereft -
All this had taken place
While cat and cook a mad dash took,
And Brent was lost in space.

A quirk of time, the banishment
Of the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

They wandered far from star to star
In search of lost mankind,
From rim to rim they searched for him
But nothing did they find!
Then through the void - the next discoid
Might be the place, perchance!
For also there were planets fair
With animals and plants.
"Another disc?" "We nothing risk!"
But still no sign was shown -
A bird must nest or never rest,
And Man must seek his own.

And so throughout the firmament
Flew the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

Of course, with speed they'd taken heed
That time should not be spent:
A thousand lights: a thousand nights
For one aboard the Brent.
Ten thousand lights: ten thousand nights,
And Man more ancient still;
The universe too great - their curse,
"Find Man we never will!"
"For all we're worth the sons of Earth
Have vanished, hope is past!"
"Why search we more?" "Then what's in store?"
"Let's travel far and fast!"

So further through the firmament
Flew the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

A million then, and now again
A billion speeds of light;
"A galaxy look fast to see!"
They passed them left and right.
And as they soared the crew on board
Beheld the shining isles,
(Whose size you might describe by light
But ne'er in terms of miles.)
"They're shrunken now, they are, I vow
No larger than the Brent!"
For mass increased, and never ceased,
The faster that you went.

So now with size magnificent
Flew the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

"Why hesitate? A greater rate!"
The discs grew smaller yet,
And each one gleamed so that it seemed
The sky with stars was set.
"And on ahead (or so 'twas said)
Infinity we ken -
Or is space curved so that, unnerved
We go around again?"
"Why go so slow, we mean to know!"
So entered in the log:
"Our speed is squared!" and now they dared
To sail on through a fog.

The mystery to solve intent
Were the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

For days and nights the twinkling lights
Of fog swirled by the ports.
The view a bore, the eyes grew sore,
And all were out of sorts.
Then..."Can it be?" "Yes, I too see!
The fog, it slowly thins!"
"Now on we go, we soon shall know
Where ev'rything begins!"
No speed was spared, again 'twas squared,
Ahead was little more;
"The fog behind, what shall we find?"
"A sea, a sky, a shore!"

Unfathomed the bewilderment
Of the crew of Starship Alvin Brent!

"Here fields and trees, and here one sees
A city and a town,
And by the shore we're flying o'er
A place to set her down!"
And there to meet, and there to greet,
A man was waiting, too.
(Not of their kind, but bear in mind:
To them this was not new.)
"Bid welcome friends! Your journey ends
On soil of Altoro."
"How came we here? What is this sphere?"
"All that you'll shortly know.

But first I want to compliment
All the crew of Starship Alvin Brent!

"I know it's strange, but that will change,
Your doubts will be dispelled.
You came from there." He pointed where
A strange cloud heaved and swelled.
"No ships have we like yours, you see -
And yet we long to roam.
No world, no star, for you too far -
But we must stay at home!
Strange ships aloft have we seen oft,
But none will leave the skies.
Somehow they wait, they hesitate
Till we our own devise.

That's why I want to compliment
All the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

"We lack the tools, we lack the fuels
To even reach our moon.
We hope to find that you are kind,
And we will get there soon!
And that is why, there in the sky
That strange cloud now expands -
(I'm off the track, I'd best start back
As order now demands!)
This Altoro, perhaps you know,
Is of the group but one
That circle 'round, are always found
Where e'er you find that sun.

I'm telling this to orient
You good folks of Starship Alvin Brent.

"The air, the sea, the soil, the tree
Are made of many parts;
Though very small, we know that all
Have tiny spinning hearts.
These atoms, then, spin 'round again
In larger pieces still
Which bump and turn, which spin and churn
In ev'ry tree and hill.
Each atom in its little spin
Must also bump and run.
In shape and form they close conform
To planets and the sun.

You now can guess what this has meant
To the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

"An atom free, it seemed to me,
(Without collisions cruel)
Without this dance, would have a chance...
Its planets then could cool.
And then they ought, or so I thought
(This opened me to scorn!)
To bring forth life, and life bring strife,
And Man at last be born;
And Man would fight, but strive for right,
Of wand'ring he'd be fond.
He'd wander far, to ev'ry star,
And some would go beyond:

So you might say that I had sent
For the crew of Starship Alvin Brent!

"An atom free could never be
On this green world of ours:
Until of late, through war and hate
We gained undreamed of powers.
Then I surmised, and I devised
A bomb for my demand:
Exploded right, extreme in height,
The gases all expand.
Expanding thus there is no fuss,
No particles collide.
It's grown that way for half a day
And soon it will have died.

But time there was for the ascent
Of the crew of Starship Alvin Brent!"

They cried aloud to yonder cloud
Which soon would dissipate,
"It soon will go, and all we know
Will be lamented, late!"
"The Greek, the Jew, the Roman, too,
The Norseman and the Turk;
The searching West, the strife, unrest,
The play, the prayer, the work.
We reached the moon, then Mars, and soon
The stars, the nebulae...
All this took place, all time and space,
Today, above your sea!"

These were the words of wonderment
Of the crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

"Since time began, the quest of Man
Throughout the firmament:
Designed by you, and only to
Bring forth the Alvin Brent!
And men there will live on until
Their universe shall fall,
While just we few have come to you,
To thank you, for them all!
Bees build their hives, men live their lives;
Some sorrow, some in bliss,
Some cry, some love, some gaze above...
But nothing know of this!"

Thus all of them were quite content
To be crew of Starship Alvin Brent.

"Your thanks is heard, and ev'ry word
I know, is from the heart.
If life has brought the things you've sought
I'm glad I played a part!
But worship not, lest be forgot
The great eternal power.
No man creates, he only rates
As gard'ner for the flower;
With planting corn or bomb this morn
We harvest what we sow.
'Mid fear and doubt you plunged on out
Your greatness I would show!

I now to further work am bent
With the crew of Starship Alvin Brent."

The engines thrummed, the motors hummed,
Their friend, of Altoro
Was by their side, to be their guide,
And there to see and know.
They loved to roam, the ship their home
They ranged from star to star;
And restless, then, set course again
For galaxies afar.
But soon this palled, and wonder called -
Their search had just begun.
Except for cat (no need of that!)
Start back at stanza one.

And who can tell the full extent
Of the flight of Starship Alvin Brent ?

© 2006, 2007 John Erickson

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