This one held up well enough to place second in the contest, which was nice, and it garnered a number of positive comments from folks, which was even nicer. :)
Words and Music: Bill Roper
A Distant Song
The dishes pointed outward, but the only thing they heard
Was the lonely hiss of hydrogen – nobody said a word.
The ticking of the pulsars or a supernova’s flare,
We searched for other minds like ours and found nobody there.
And then we heard a signal and we knew we must be wrong.
We set out to decode it and we heard a distant song:
A melody that rose and soared and dove back down again,
A song of introduction sent out to this world of men.
We listened to the music that came falling from a star,
To instruments we’d never heard and voices unlike ours.
A message sent at light speed from a point far off in space.
An introductory canon from an unknown alien race.
The dishes turned to follow so we didn’t miss a note.
The telescopes in space peered out and found a distant mote:
A G-class star so much like ours in a far-off patch of sky.
On a cold dark night you’d barely see it with your naked eye.
We thought we heard emotions, but we couldn’t really know –
Of hope and joy and sorrow, of fear and letting go.
We listened to their song for weeks until the music stopped.
A flare of light, a burst of static, left us sitting shocked.
Now we’re searching for the meaning in the message that they sent,
Sifting notes and phonemes as we’re seeking their intent.
Taken all together, do they form some secret code,
Or just a final requiem from the end of their long road?
(Chorus to end)
An introduction and farewell from an unknown alien race.