Astropoetica: Mapping the Stars through Poetry

Vesta Variations: Two Poems

Dawn Comes to Vesta

by Kendall Evans

Image of Vesta Captured by Dawn on July 18, 2011


Virgin goddess of the hearth
Sister of Ceres
Daughter of Saturn
Expressed her desire
To be virgin forever
Keeper of the sacred fire
Inviolate, eternal

Vesta in the brightest asteroid
Not quite the size of her sister
530 kilometers in diameter
Crater-pocked with impact scars
During the chaos
Of solar system formation

Dawn comes to Vesta:
NASA’s unmanned spacecraft Dawn
Powered by ion propulsion
Bracketed by its broad array
Of solar panels
Propelled out past
The circuit of Mars
Captured by the asteroid’s
Fragile gravity

Orbiting with quiet grace
In isolation immaculate
Dreaming her dreams
Of fire and virginity
Of immortality—
Doesn’t she know
How dangerous it is
To capture the interest
Of humankind?

Four Vesta Fictions

by Samantha Henderson

10 and 20 billion years: a mere stroll
in the mind of God, and planetesimals crash,
birthing Vesta. But it continues, protoplanet
meets its sister, again and again, until big enough
to claim atmosphere as prize—green life fights out
of rock and ice, and dies, and lives and dies.  Like flame.

We desire something within, so
after Dawn come the clever steel spiders,
the cunning copper crabs, with claws
tipped in tungsten, to tear away
each layer, ’til Vesta’s heart is pillaged
carted home, sold at market.

Vesta, a mere egg, ripes and splits apart
between Dawn’s launch and its arrival
so when the craft arrives, it finds
a cracked olivine shell where a naked thing slept,
like the goddess or her sinning Vestals,
inside the Earth itself.

Something went left-handed at the intersection
of reptile and mammal; or proto-Eve (mother of us all)
mated less wise; or sun-dazzled in a Russian bunker
Stanislav Petrov thought five missiles: it’s begun,
not five missiles: Americans are never so subtle, therefore—
Vesta hangs alone in vacuum, ignoring the ghost
of Dawn-that-might-have-been. Inviolate.

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Stories and poems by Kendall Evans have appeared in Amazing Stories, Fantastic, Asimov's SF, Mythic Delirium, Weird Tales, and in Nebula Award Showcase 2012 (as well as the 2008 anthology). In addition to winning the Rhysling Award for best SF poem of the year (long poem category) for "In the Astronaut Asylum", written with Samantha Henderson, he also won previously in the same category for "The Tin Men", written in collaboration with David C. Kopaska-Merkel. He has recently completed a book-length dramatic poem, a science fiction ring-cycle titled "The Rings of Ganymede".

Samantha Henderson lives in Covina, California by way of England, South Africa, Illinois, and Oregon. Her short fiction and poetry have been published in Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and Weird Tales, the anthologies Running with the Pack and Fantasy, and reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy and Science Fiction, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, and Mammoth Book of Steampunk. Her first poetry collection, The House of Forever, is being released in 2012 by Raven Electrick, Ink. To contact her, send her email at For more about her and her work, see her website.