Bronze-burnished, thin-legged, starved, you are now entering your death stage.
Send me some photos, Cassini.
Once, my father took a picture of us in front of our house.
It had walls and a gate with a lock. It had
a roof like my father's arms: it kept out snow and wind.
We ran in to eat cake and out to pick apples, running over rocks, stupid with happiness.
Cassini, does it hurt to graze the rings of Saturn?
Tell me if the cold and debris bounce off your little body.
Do the rings hum or is it quiet as a grave out there?
He died, my father did, Cassini, when he went
to check if the family in the other street could
spare us some bread
now that their daughter had died.
Cassini, I will play you a song over the radio in my head.
The arrangement of it will match your twenty-two dives and the barrel bomb explosions.
Maybe you will forget about the countdown to your lonely end.
Now I hear them getting closer, Cassini. Their boots are
crushing the rubble to powder. Their tanks moving in.
At night, I hear them
over the rasp of my brothers' breaths squeezed out of their shrinking lungs.
Cassini, did they tell you, when they made you, that you will be forgotten?
Did they talk to you at eye-level,
tell you to be noble, to be strong, to close your eyes and hunker down?
Yesterday, we lost two walls, Cassini. We moved into
the room at the back. So blessed. We have here
a painting of a cow in a green field. Our mother
tells us to look at it while she divides the fistful of rice into four portions.
Cassini, how tremendous to be able to see the things
no one else has, relentlessly.
Perhaps you have some secrets you will not share with us earthlings.
Today, a bomb killed the people next door, and
a part of our roof fell down.
My brothers' spindly legs, sticking out from under the plaster,
look just like yours, Cassini.
Now I can see you in the night, through the hole above my head.
Go around, Cassini. Apoapse, periapse. And once again.
One time, a war lasted fifteen years, Cassini,
and cost a million lives.
Maybe you and I will outlast the humanitarian appeals and
the strong words of condemnation.
Cassini, I see your main engine shut off. You are orbiting in mourning.
We will say goodbye to each other every day
just in case.
One of the things that residents trapped in a warzone say is how lonely and forgotten they feel. We hear about them but can't reach them. It reminded me of the space probe Cassini, which, having served its purpose for 19 years, is hurtling toward its end, unreachable in its last, most critical moments.