Music of the spheres: Mercury
When you need me most, I am quicksilver, mad as a hatter, falling with the Perseids. We enter the hungry atmosphere of the planet, so many white scars of evening, pass through a checkpoint. They examine our passports, though none are denied entrance but those who are willing to burn. As to the rest, they change our names and offer us all sorts of things we never asked for. That is the price of gravity, to shed your other self, flinch at a familiar voice, forget the starry void, which you can barely stand to see now a ribbon of Augusts unspools from the place your tongue used to be.
This is the love of the stone smoking in its crater, before a cooling anonymity brushes the fever from its brow, smooths the lunar pockmarks clean away. Join the witness protection program for fun and profit. Let thy dwelling place be a cheap hotel. Let thy suitcase be waterproof. Wear only that which is changeable and light. Resist the wanton lucidities of the sun. Don't look up. Don't shoot the messenger. Down here they are calling you by a different name to which you are always slightly too slow to respond.
Music of the spheres: Mars
What is your metaphysics? A few conditions dreamed up for the purpose and pleasure of breaking them anew. It is a question not of any view of the world but of every view of the world, for each is a guerrilla screening of a small, indescribably luminous movie in an impromptu outdoor theater, hastily assembled, then utterly destroyed, never to be seen again.
Let it be known: my first memory is of knives.
Let it be known: my first memory is of comets over Veracruz.
Let it be known: my first memory is of a color I can no longer perceive.
Somewhere close is the fatal stranger who will bring you a suitcase full of untraceable poisons to use as you wish. He writes for the city--don't give it away--his loyalties are desperate, secret, unsound. And I don't need to tell you what it's like to be the last survivor of an alien race. For his mission to succeed, he must believe you can kill like a god and you must believe you can die like one. It's only a little sibling rivalry in the end.
But soft, challengers, all is not lost! We all wear the same paperbacks as hats and to some degree or another our parasols deflect the self-same radiation. That's universal love for you. Everyone's first allegiance is to a heat ray or a dangerous mineral, a planet seen only in dreams.
Music of the spheres: Jupiter
We tutored the minotaur in secret. He could not tell our faces apart. His madness was not genius, it was the narrowing of the world to a pattern obsessively traced, a habit of eating always in the same grisly order, elflocks to marrow, smoking the same brand of cigarette, breaking the gnomon off the sundial, counting the torchières between the margin and the center fourteen times before sleep.
Nobody's blaming anybody.
Catastrophe was parentless. In that world gravity was outlaw, a long Icarian game. Nothing held us together. Entropy whickered in the eaves. When we were mazemakers, each moment was secretly betrothed to a consequence just as it was born. Aromatic clouds dyed the air the right color for breathing. There were reasonable facsimiles everywhere. Decisions about how long to stretch a second took hours. Certain foods induced nausea but always, always the echo of a face in the fields and mornings shot with curious rhythms that seemed to involve the traffic light, the wax robin and the wounded hare, the marquetry of red shade riming the kitchen table, so that the monstrous whole seemed our own designing all along. When I returned, everything was personal and probable again, but singular, so singular it hurt for many moons, an accidental conspiracy of space.
The mean and mawkish world did not require our valiance. For this reason, we decided to be brave. Bravery involved the testing of various metals against our tongues. Brazen alloys tasted strongly of heat, weakly of curried spinach. Copper smacked of a particular cut sustained when a kitchen knife slid through the flesh of your forearm like the fin of a shark through the taffeta waters of a Jacques Cousteau adventure. You will recall the consequences of silver most vividly for it proved what you had suspected always: you were born a beast. It cannot be helped, only known and kissed.
The great red fireflies flare and flame together. Plans are troubling, no matter their intent. Chaos is equally perverse. Do you think, because there is no saffron in the gruel, the hungers will not come to the daughters of the orchid? They will weave hoodies of flax and nettles to warm and punish and this of all urges they will call "natural." Everything plundered, everything wrecked they will measure like a garment, though they mean to fashion a naked world of their mercy, one where we touch each other (hosanna). They will make you a playlist of your very own.
Music of the spheres: Saturn
Who would be the good angel, haloed in ice? Who would sing elegies to the mold and the bone china plate? Moon of gasoline blue. Silvered skiff crossed by flies, glassine model of an eye. Put down the orrery. The Styx was such a disappointment. Nothing but a coin-bright river in a mist. I write in a hopeful dialect. Most poetry is wingèd and so designed to fail you. No such thing as still life. All is portraiture (weep).
Do not weep. When I was prisoner in the asphodel, I thought to find you, fed on pomegranate seeds, the sane thoughts of marshes and infinitesimal fish. I spun the face of an antique rotary phone and whispered my observations to the place the dial tone used to live. I watched the half-life (if that's what it was) for hours innumerable. It resembled inhaling for years without exhaling once.
Once chilled like a slab of semifreddo, the body dreams. Were we possessed or was it self-possession after all? A kind of kidnapping, though the archaic word is rape. Some just call it tourism. These days I pull that electric blanket to my chin, sleep as best I can in the blind, watercolorednox.
Out of that nox-world I went at last, by what means I cannot tell. Will-o-the-Wisp or rushlights lit the staircase. I forget where I was going with this. I dropped my keys. What strange aftertaste lingered there? Frail I am not for I am, above all things, insubstantial. To be insubstantial is to be indestructible, capable of inhaling for years without exhaling once.
Once there was some dark matter.
How can I describe the blue matter of that unplace where a foreign moon pollinates the atmosphere, though there is no moon, no matter, no fear and the people have only the eyes of intellect?
I remember intellectual bacchanals of such power that the dreamers wept wine and snortled in the Lydian mode. The dreamers were my wives and my husbands. Still I could not abandon my vulgar waking. Still I wept salt, salt for my ugliness, salt for their beauty.
The wreck of our beauty I have contemplated with great anticipation for, freed from beauty, what other secret yearnings might we send into the world? Alien children dangerous with promise will be grateful when the Golden Record touches down, not because they are waiting for it nor because they are hungry for the songs of earth but because they need new music to dance to and this music will be free.
Freed in the end, I was not yet at liberty, my face fixed over my shoulder so that I might see always that heavy text, my shadow, at my back. Now I cast none nor can I save you with a promise not to look behind me in the night.
Stranger, I have sung my warnings.
Beware of dog.
If you see him, say hello.
Sylvie Bruno lives in North America.