They Draw Their Plans Against Us, by Nicky Kippax



Skin is sea glass. Soft, with edges.

Palms rough as boulders that bolster the bay.

All arms; they offer a belly to the tide.

Neck amok and threaded with shells, roaring at wild foam.


Our voices echo back to us: we have landed, flayed but alive.


You’ll try to settle, but ours is a hollow shanty.

With sand-furred dogs and swept faces,

We are strangers to this place.

The dust is not our kin; it jeers at our shoes.


Our voices echo back to us: we have landed, flayed but alive.


Our bodies still speak of high-blocked skies,

intended wreckage, human spoiling and corners.

Earth could reap a raw tide too, once.

But now these sirens lure us here. And we must come.




Author note

When I was a child, I would often play Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of The Worlds (1978) on my mum’s record player. It was hauntingly brilliant and I can still recall the thrilling first words of narrator, Richard Burton. This piece of musical art stirred my first awakenings about the possibility of a world outside our own, just as I was beginning to learn about my planet.


‘They draw their plans against us’ is inspired by the narrative and questions raised in HG Wells’ novel The War of The Worlds. He asserts that Mars ‘has air and water and all that is necessary for the support of animated existence’ and follows with:

Yet so vain is man, and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer, up to the very end of the nineteenth century, expressed any idea that intelligent life might have developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly level. Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is older than our earth, with scarcely a quarter of the superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily follows that it is not only more distant from time’s beginning but nearer its end. (1897: Chapter 1 ‘The Eve of the War’)


My poem draws on this theme—it is, perhaps, a short, cautionary account about the visceral sense of alienation we may feel on a new planet. To be human is, in part, to be a product of all which surrounds us. We may find acclimatising to our new neighbours, a wild environment and a far older planet more difficult than can ever be foreseen.


Wells, HG 1897, The War of the Worlds, Heinemann, London.




Nicky Kippax has recently enrolled on the MA in Creative Writing at York St John University.



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