12:1: “Orpheus in Orbit”, by Michele Bannister

12:1: “Orpheus in Orbit”, by Michele Bannister

These are the scarred faces of lonely moons.
Ice-hulled and ocean-sheltering,
aqua-veined by deep-delved crevasses,
gushing heat from hidden havens.
Violet-touched, passing into ringshadow.

Watch: the gossamer ring, moonlet-ring,
stretches half the pinned arc of worlds.
Turn for the backlit-blaze of sunbloom;
only to frame one blue-water pixel,
hanging in perspective.

Small artifice, tireless on the long path,
garbed in silicon and steel, Saturn-bound.
Always returning across the void to Titan:
heartbeat of exploration’s hope, pivot-core
of travel to families of farflung moon-sisters.

The ochre-hazed orbit-hub owns a world’s weather.
In the land that waits a thousand years for rain
seasons come and go in generations:
thirty years to see a second spring.

Above the ice of mountains and memory,
summer’s rains pour down on deltas in the north.
Waiting for the rise of satin-sheen dark lakes,
the wind at the equator is a gentle sentinel,
picking up stray slow-sintering sand-grains,
absently calming the frozen dunes, over and over.

Solitary camera-craft, remembering caught light,
spins out a song of data against the implacable day:
that long drop in, gathering speed, spiralling
into the ever-avoided embrace of thickening clouds,
taking all the care it can be gifted

never to look back.

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 poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Ideomancer, Stone Telling, inkscrawl, and other venues, in the Here, We Cross anthology (Stone Bird Press, 2012), and is forthcoming in Goblin Fruit. She says:

Spacecraft like Cassini are often compared to Odysseus; but we’re never so kind as to find them an Ithaca.

Enceladus, photographed by Cassini, is provided by NASA and is in the public domain.

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