archival testimony fragments / minersong

for Marcell Géza Takács

they called me elder / now that I am

[—by ISMMG Corporation. During this mandatory orientation and training, we will supply you with basic mining gear, as well as information about the latest—]

useless scrap metal / now folded under shale,
trapped in pockets of compressed ground. I
exhaled gas, exhaled until there was no more
waiting for friends, waiting even for miners

[—the remnants of entities which are sometimes referred to as ‘living ships,’ though their exact nature is unknown. Look out for iridescence, layered enamel in a peacock hue: small scraps of 10cm square may fetch as much as 3mil—]

under weighed ground / but nobody came, ever

[—to wear your headpiece at all times: you might hear voices. Even when affected, most miners suffer no permanent damage. Your risk and liability paperwork indicates—]

but once I changed shape
to the reverberation, navigated
the outflung stars, numbers
confirming to pathways calculated by mothers

[= my question? I have heard of ghosts—
    voices, trapped in bubbles of gas
    between layers of shale =] 

Whose voice will find me now /
call me back, call me councilor, call me
elder, a woman of bent metal

[—rumors of larger fragments so far unsubstantiated, but investing in latest models of gear is advisable, in case you come across—]

call me like before, a carrier of troops / avoider
of peace, soldier in a named shape
of sung metal and starflung roads               

[—to answer: is it worth running a risk of psychological damage for a fairly substantial possibility of profit?—]

but like flames in the wind,
war after war has been extinguished,
until there was no need for us. On world upon world

[= how can we rob her
    do you not hear her speak
    of the old wars—cannot you hear? =]

they shifted tectonic plates, terraformed
the destruction they wrought, erased into oblivion /
Ash–choked rivers
turned volcano glass

[= I forget what language first birthed me,
   what song engendered my birth =]

[—we never before had a case of someone this severely affected during training. No, insurance will not cover—]

magma had swallowed
the steel domes where we had been sung. /
I forget what language first birthed me,
what song engendered my birth,
my mothers’ voice
must have lent me a form

[—independent mining is strictly prohibited. This planet belongs to ISMMG Corporation. Offenders will be—]

From time to time
miners, I think, hear me,
humans who could have sung
ships to life in the old days, become our mothers,
sisters / now lost between folds
of shale and obsidian
a song has yet to find me

[=here to purchase mining gear. No, it is none of your business=]

Sing your path to me
unearth what is left
ruins of my birth

[= an entrapment
    of your birth and death, I sing to you now =]

and death/
useless scrap metal

[=councilor, elder, avoider of peace=]

useless scrap metal /
to soar


[—independent mining is strictly prohibited. Offenders will be punished according to ISMMG Corporation’s penal code, article XTS–z–19.—]

[=I come, I come=]

(Editors’ Note: “archival testimony fragments / minersong” is read by C. S. E. Cooney in the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 4.)


R.B. Lemberg

R.B. Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Ukraine, Russia, and Israel to the US. Their stories and poems have appeared in Lightspeed‘s Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology, and more. R.B.’s work has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, and other awards. R.B’s new Birdverse novella The Four Profound Weaves is forthcoming from Tachyon Press in 2020. “Eating disorder…” is a part of their larger project in progress, Everything Thaws. You can find R.B. on Twitter at @rb_lemberg, on Patreon at, and at

8 Responses to “archival testimony fragments / minersong

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