Stone Telling

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by Michele Bannister

I have the measurements of your very skin.
This is my integument against uncertainty: twenty-one layers to fit your form,
spandex, nylon, mylar, and hope —
the last stitched down with ragged edges.

I must be as precise as the width of the eye of my needle,
as precise as your launch window;
you can measure the movements of the planets to millimetres,
but oh, unforgiving gravity, and you in less than half a centimetre of my care.

This piecing for the curve of your hips; this for the arch of your back.
Now the fiddly seams around the bust; a crease is eighteen hours of torment.

There is such grace in every arc from pad to orbit, you tell me
and for the delight in your eyes, I will see it too —
and check the tolerances three more times. And again after lunch.

I quilt beside the cooling pipes. This stitch will lie next to your heart;
in silken metal I add the dogwood-petal circuits your grandmother loved.
But for the gloves, grass-green and gold, I embroider all the flowers of our garden —

It is the aluminised gleam that catches in my eye. So bright
as acrid as the glare
when you see that first sunrise from orbit; they say the glory
of that thin layer of lightning-quilted atmosphere, excruciating blue,
is heartbreaking.

Michele Bannister lives in Australia, where she is working towards her doctorate in astronomy. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, and is forthcoming in Jabberwocky, Cascadia Subduction Zone and Ideomancer.

Read Michelle's discussion of this poem over at the Roundtable!

Photography: 1979 … Anna Fisher MD – astronaut, by James Vaughan.