In tenth grade, my English class had a unit on poetry. One of our first assignments was to write a poem as a group. I was rather obsessed with science fiction at the time, so planets seemed like obvious topics. My original plan was to write a poem about Venus, but when my group members repeatedly focused on the fact that “Venus rhymes with penis,” I changed the subject to Mars. The resulting poem was rather horrible, but it inspired me to write a poem about Venus on my own time, which I think came out a bit better.

Spring 2003 in New Carrollton, Maryland

Oh, we have scorned you, Venus—hellish world.
For, like your namesake, you, with magic belt,
caused us to love you most of all the worlds,
and cast us back in horror at your face.

An opal siren calling us from far,
you made us love what lay beneath your clouds:
the swamps and seas of seltzer or of oil,
we would have walked among them if they were.

A hope you gave us that we might soon see,
a jungle world, a place like Earth had been,
a chance to look for native life that might,
by chance, have mind glim’ring in its strange eyes.

And now we know the truth you hid so long,
that Maxwell, Ishtar, Aphrodite lie
as continents, but not upon a sea:
no sea could last in your eternal heat.

Of all the worlds that dwell around the sun,
you surely are the most unloved by us:
you have no moon our feet might touch and live;
your sea of brimstone air would quickly kill.

Oh, we have scorned you, Venus—hellish world.
We bid you leave us to our peace and not
so torment us with beauty hiding hell.
Forbidden fruit shines brightest in our skies.