The First Flute, Played in Enceladus's Light: Five Voices

by Michele Bannister


Once, under fit­ful light, we came to take our own
left through the salt­ed mar­row and the mar-path,
the marsh­light and shiv­ered rushes.
They played for us; so then did we play for them.
You wish to hear their voic­es sing again? Here;
the instru­ment must be bone.


These are the songs that were left
and the notes that you made then; these we now inscribe
small items in a doc­u­ment­ed record,
minor men­tions in our memories.
It is writ­ten into the foun­da­tions of our scholarship
and care­ful­ly forgotten:
all our frames are wreath-woven from bones.
It is kinder, to keep such pre­cious tokens that way;
and we are very kind.


Encrust­ed salt, sea-salt, salare, all the life and all the bitterness
sign of untold paths to con­jec­tured caves â€”
the cav­erns of mind alone.
Hope­ful­ness, writ­ten in the heat-trace and the fil­tered lines of light:
spec­tro­graph, fail us not. Fif­teen bil­lion joules a sec­ond can­not lie
and yet we write our sto­ries. Small moon, shad­owed moon,
fire-mar­rowed moon
plain­tive in the twi­light of ring-shadow:
I will show you sidelit craters in a hand­ful of dusk.


Bone-sheen in soft Sat­urn-glow casts a flut­ed reflection
on the dome wall.
The starved juniper shiv­ers in the wind, points:
there are fur­ther cav­erns below.
Too late for us. No ora­cle with­out the gnarled tree;
no mourn­ing with­out green funer­al leaves.
Once, none knew the con­stel­la­tions of Hine-nui-te-pō’s land.
If there we recall lost chil­dren, our tears can­not be laced with salt.


Those? Kin to the bones of the sky
now dust in shad­owed seas, dried to salt of the Earth.
Beyond, smudged thumbprint on the sky: the clos­er moon. Rising.

Michele Ban­nis­ter has an uncom­mon fond­ness for dis­tant worlds both small and icy. She lives in Aus­tralia, where she is work­ing towards her doc­tor­ate in astron­o­my. Her work has appeared in and is forth­com­ing in Strange Hori­zons.

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