Every night reminds her of that night. Her lover standing at the end of the pier, her turning away to face some birdsong on opposite horizon, her turning back to see emptiness, to see nothing of her lover in the water but reflections of the stars, the waves, which had begun and would continue long past any love, any memory.
She stands then on the pier, weakened low tide comes, no lover to speak of. The astronomers linger, muttering to each other. She lets herself fall into the water, becomes absorbed into it, and she can feel the seaweed tendrils of her lover absorbing her, pulling her in to be embalmed in salt, and then hands upon her arms, her shoulders, her freshly-shaved legs, the astronomers pulling her to the beach of one tideline, wrack and swash together. They are soaked and panting, beards dripping with saltwater. They are saying, Poor girl, we know what you see there. Poor girl, we understand the depth of dark, of death. But there is only one thing in this universe that we would not wish gone, even for the pleasure of our telescopes.
The astronomers build a fire and cover her in animal skins and tell her the story of the moon. It was once a part of this world, they say, only to be shorn by some deep violence. It only orbited for so long by chance, and maybe by some longing, the need to be near its once-partner. But isn’t there something wonderful, they say, in seeing the end to such a long goodbye?
The astronomers watch as she scours the beach for objects that have been rendered white by the ocean: mollusk shells and driftwood and even bone, flat stones from faraway mountains. They watch as she bundles these objects together using wet sand for plaster, how she blows across its surface until it takes to the air. The astronomers peer through their telescopes, marvel at how brightly it glows, how moon-like. But it floats on, its orbit not taken, joins the moon in retreat. The astronomers start to lecture her on orbital velocities and apoapsides, but stop, instead tell her of its beauty, construction and symbol both.
The old moon no more than a brighter-than star, and her new moon diminishing even faster, and for some time she thinks they will glow on forever but forgets they are unlike stars. They generate not their own light, only show what can’t, just then, be seen. The water, at what was once low tide, shuffles at the waterlines on the pier. No lover, no seaweed expression, no kiss.
In twilight, astronomers come down the berm. One approaching her on the pier, holding out a telescope, offering for her to join them in a survey of the stars. Could even see the moon on its exit, there, the astronomer says. The telescope is heavy in her hands. She holds it to her eye, sees magnified waves, a mid-tide timeless. The astronomer laughs, directs her skyward, toward a second ocean with no tide but two new moons. Both are heading out for the edge of the solar system, this astronomer says, so if you look long enough you see that everything is a-passing, star or tide, satellite or dream. Once our moon, now a star. Once your moon, now a memory.
Hans | 11