Dedicated to Clark Ashton Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and C.L. Moore
Down where dead sea bottoms fall When Phobos' shadow seeks the morn The clang of arms and armor ring The jingling harness of a thoat— The walls of Helium could not stand; The canals are scars, the desert straits
Into canyon gulfs dark-deep,
And dust-storms blow, dust-devils crawl,
Into cavern-tombs to creep,
The ghosts of old Mars shake their clothes
When red dust swirls among their crypts,
And red winds force with granite blows
A tune across their frozen lips.
And shuddering night falls like a stone
The deep-lost cities, nightmare-torn
Strive to wake, to rouse their bones.
The four-armed armies, swirled in dusts
Seek their forms to coalesce
And re-enact the hates and lusts
That never die, and never rest.
And roars of armies dimly sound,
To echo when the red winds sing
In deep dark cities underground.
A princess waits upon a stair
Her mummy-flesh as pale as milk
And starlight dances in her hair,
Dark, yet light as spider's silk.
The Tharkish kings are locked in sleep
While dreaming; Yorhis cannot rest,
And Shambleaux wander valleys deep,
With writhing locks and naked breasts.
Gathor's towers rise as buttes
Whittle-worn by untold ages
No more to know the pluck of lutes—
Just the crimson wind that rages.
The face of a king from a far blue globe
Stares blindly at the stars that gloat,
His crown of stone, the sands his robe.
Pyramidal cities dim
Stretch like wounds across the plain
From crimson rim to crimson rim,
Never to know red folk again.
The halls of Hastor gape in silence
And doméd cities, no more grand
Are choked by sand and windstorm's violence.
Where once the pleasure-boats adrift
Made sparkling pageant at the quays
Are now but blasted, rocky cliffs
With rusted relics as their lees.
No more the Aihai traders ply
And far below Ignarh's gates
Yoh-Vombis' gulfs of silence lie.
The red world is a dreaming tomb
Rusting 'neath the pallid dome
Awaiting to deliver doom
To those who'd come and call her home.
Illustrations copyright 2007 by Wm Michael Mott
When Phobos' shadow seeks the morn
The clang of arms and armor ring
The jingling harness of a thoat—
The walls of Helium could not stand;
The canals are scars, the desert straits