(A keen boatwoman and volunteer lifeboat helm, Eleanor wrote this poem following news of an eerie radio transmission from Saturn picked up by NASA – listen here: https://www.nasa.gov/wav/123163main_cas-skr1-112203.wav)
We cut the engine
and drop anchor by Sunk Island.
We lie across the centre thwart
to inspect our bowl of sky.
A shoal of Perch
gently bumps our boat.
Above us, starlight is occluded
by a single shifting cloud.
I attempt to read ellipses,
but they’re of unequal length,
and in a code I cannot decipher.
You tell me the cosmos is not silent,
and I ask you what it’s saying?
Only coffin ships will reach us.
Grim, I say, gazing into the night’s gulf.
Stars blink their sequence –
the constellations are another puzzle.
You point at the night,
accuse one bright bulb of being Saturn,
ask if I would like to hear its song.
On your ‘phone we hear
a choir of countless souls
hum a fluctuating dead note,
a keening carried here on astral winds –
an air for Armageddon.
The song raises a curlew
from its nest – whose ancient call
is a solemn riposte.
We lie then, in crumpled silence,
as the star-struck lake sways beneath our boat.