From the author: Rhysling-nominated poem about the scientists who study the seasonal patterns of a watery moon somewhere.
We call it spring
when currents and gravity conspire
to float our station
into the mineral waters,
where strands of impure ice
crystalize into blooms and branches,
multifoliate formations of inorganic matter.
Ice overhead cracks and reforms
under the stress of the gas giant's pull,
spring's chorus, the sound of ice breaking,
the sight of new growth
We call it summer
over the volcanic seeps;
the heated plumes rise,
push against our hull.
We capture that heat,
electron motion into stored power,
and lift slowly up toward a sky made
of the underside of a thousand meters of ice.
That cold can't reach us, only serves
as distant snowy peaks back home,
foil to the warmth that seeps through the station's skin,
a lazy, humid heat that suits the season
We skip to winter
when the current pushes us
beyond the sublunar fires,
the water still warm, but
gently falling precipitate
is too much like snow
to consider it any other season.
Flakes we've yet to study gather,
pile up on our surfaces.
We sing of a gift-giver transformed,
a submarine Santa crossed
with a jolly Nemo,
aquatic reindeer pulling a Nautilus sleigh
Then back to autumn
we circle, where spring's crystals
crumble into the depths,
mingled with tantalizing hints
of amino acids and protein.
Follow, follow, they call in a language
known to none.
The station's lights reflect off the shards
of falling crystalline forms
long after anything else
reflects back up to us
Some cycles we do follow those voices;
when or why the current goes that way
we've yet to understand,
but when we do, we need a new season
one not known on earth.
With linguist's scalpels we peel fall from autumn,
and fall is what we do
deep into the subsurface
following specks of reflection;
our lights reveal glimpses of greater monuments,
formations that shame spring's simple forms.
Here, we think, here
if someday a voice of intelligence comes to us
if this moon lives, beyond the strands of one-celled life,
it will be here.
We strain toward our sensors,
stare at screens, sigh when the waters
make us rise again to spring
We...call it spring.
This story originally appeared in Dreams & Nightmares.