The Last Crone on the Moon

by C. S. E. Cooney

At daybreak she espies them 
twisting through the curls
sneakily they glint, the vanguard
just a few threads yet
tangle-snaked and

she auditions similes against mortality:
hair like rain, like winter rivers, like
quicksilver, spiderweb, wolfpelt
(fails, feels instantly endangered 
her mouth a quarter quavering
mostly wry)

later, they multiply
strand by strand
miles on the road
deadlines, payload
lean times, deathblows
friends made, faded, more and more
she braids gray with gold

"room enough for all gods' children on the moon!
step right up, sit down, lean back — aaaand freeze!
all the rest'll keep, so here's a little somethin-somethin to
help you sleep, sweethearts, sleep
a hundred years (give or take), and we'll 
wake you with a smoocheroo, and we'll 
have the stuff by then to make you 
young and beautiful again" 

up and out they go
smooth-browed, serene and clean
whole generations
by the rocketshipful

she watches.
the world empties.

when the last is decades gone
in a fastness of iron-and-diamond caskets
tended by tender robots 
she coils her hair into a coronet, takes her
cane by the carving of the crow's head 
walks briskly but with stiff steps to the kiosk
where the android with the ticktock heart
reads her retinas and greets her by name

"just once," she says, "I want to see
my shadow cast by earthlight." 

"that i can do," smiles the android (ticktock)
"but the flight itself might murder you
you ain't no spring chicken, miss daisy
more of a Methuselah, I'm thinkin'
maybe a Tithonus, sort of shrunk and sunken
shriveled like a cricket
however spry."

"all too true, my gearish dear — I agree with you!
yet here I stand
worm-eaten as I am
applying for the post 
of last crone on the moon

when at last tomorrow's children awaken 
on that barren rock, in that vacuum vastness
shaking in the dark and cold
I reckon they'll be wanting something old
to cling to."

C. S. E. Cooney's fiction and poetry can be found in Rich Horton's Year's Best Science Fiction Fantasy 2011 and 2012, SteamPowered II and Clockwork Phoenix 3, at Apex, Subterranean, Strange Horizons, Podcastle, and Mythic Delirium. Her book Jack o' the Hills came out with Papaveria Press in 2011, which will also be releasing her poetry collection How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes in April of 2012. She was the recipient of the 2011 Rhysling Award in the Long Poem category. She is blog editor for Black Gate Magazine and also keeps her own blog.

When asked what creature, landmark, or place would appear in Neverland when she visited it, she replied as follows: "In Neverland, just south of Cannibal Cove, there is a mighty volcano. It erupts every dusk like clockwork. You may always see the sun setting to its left, and the moon rising to its right. Inside the caldera is a tower, where the bathwater is always warm and there is always enough light to read by."

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