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

by Michele Bannister
(Australia)

i. ANCESTOR

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.

ii. ARCHAEOLOGIST

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.

iii. ASTRONOMER

Encrusted salt, sea-salt, salare, all the life and all the bitterness
sign of untold paths to conjectured caves —
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.

iv. ADAPTER

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.

v. ABANDONEE

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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