On a Mining Planet by John Grey

April 2020 | Utopia Science Fiction Magazine

Utopia Science Fiction Magazine
2 min readSep 23, 2022

At the gruff notes of our approach,
six rough-furred xoltl stand to attention
on the icy stream bank,
stare curiously and cautiously
at the glinting silver sheen
of our passing hover-truck.

Like everything near,
they are here — they are gone –
something else takes their place.
A vulture-like carnix pecking at
the flesh of something dead.
A gaggle of suited-up scientists
drilling through the planet’s carapace.

We hurtle toward the distant gray mountains,
a cluster of dead volcanoes
that look down on the layers of topsoil
they long ago created.​

Loaded up with provisions for the mines,
we speed by miles
of white parabolas,
shapes carved by wind,
the remnants of an ancient village,
trees humbled by the weight
of snow on their branches.

Ore-vessels, huge as four-story buildings,
zip by in less than an instant,
headed for the smelters farther east.

An occasional local
peers out through the window of his hut,
his eyes jagged this way, that way,
by the passing traffic.
We leave him free to hunt
his apalox for meat, for furs,
to gather zig-wood for his fire.

He’s primitive like the rest of his kind,
in the very early stages of their evolution.
Meanwhile, we strip this world of the resources
they won’t be needing for ten thousand years or more.


Originally published in the April 2020 issue of Utopia Science Fiction Magazine

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and failbetter.