DJ Seal

Whales sing underwater symphonies,
but Weddell seals out-zane Led Zeppelin.

Electric guitars ricochet under ice,
strobing and zigzagging and bouncing
off your eardrums inside of your brain in ways
that the drab speckling of their blubber
and rock-pool shine of their eyes
would never have you believe.

Rock-stars in disguise, they party to the underwater trace,
enticing those more accustomed to the whales’ sigh
to change the channel,
dare to experiment,
live a little.

Departmental Party

By the time we start making the third round of Caipariñas
The glaciologists have gathered in the kitchen
And started showing interest in the ice we crush
Grinding it glass by glass to smithereens like stones on a shore.

“Tell us,” we tease “What is the history of this cube?”
They rub their chins in consideration
and lament the absence of their machines that go ‘ping’
“The blue core,” says one “indicates a quick freezing.”
PhD students are summoned to provide further commentary
and an argument ensues over dominant chemical isotopes
Before it is agreed that, given all visible indicators
and the taste of the cubes when added to the South American concoction
– We’d better try another, just to be sure –
the likely source is the petrol station on the corner.

(They swear this educated guess
is reached by powers of deduction
and has nothing to do with the labeled bag of ice in the chilly bin by the door.)

“Impressive” we say, as we fill our glasses and slide the crusher over in their direction.
“You sure know your ice. We’ll leave things in your capable hands.”
Needless to say, the fourth round’s on them.

Winfly

Winfly dawns like any other
For those of us who are accustomed
To the gentle rhythm of day and night
That rocks us through the months and years.
We eat our breakfast, we put on our coats, we go to work
And strangers in the street slip past unnoticed.

Planes come and go.

Down South the breakfast, coats and work
Are joined by trepidation, anticipation, and the spectre
of strangers not yet in their midst
but taking up space all the same.

Peter Pan

McMurdo Station
Is a pile of Lego
Discarded in the dirt
Beneath a playground swing

Tracked vehicles
From a meccano box set
Have sprung to life
Here at the end of the world

They trundle back and forth
Ferrying food scraps and fuel,
Feeding the cycle of
Eat, work, sleep.
The longest day passes.

Meanwhile,
Discarded dreams lie dormant
In primary coloured crates
And perfection is located on the outskirts
Neatly encased in timber

Cape Evans

Light slanting through the window
Colours the room
Like a sepia photograph

Highlighting the jars of pills
And powdered eggs
From the days when the world
Was black and white

Now it’s black and white and blue
Blue like the china in a faraway parlour
Blue like eyes as they blink farewell
Blue, fading sepia with every click of the lens

Leaving history a stain
On a blank canvas

Colourblind

In a place where RED flags mean ‘go’
Symbolism has been turned up

side

down

Here the colourblind never run lights
Even day and night are confused
Just GOING and GOING and GOING
Like a three year old on a sugar high

They are not quite on speaking terms with one another
Avoiding each other at the changeover
Like awkward flatmates living parallel lives

Giving each other a wide berth,
The sunsets of February a note on the fridge
Reading ‘Need more loo paper. J.’

When RED means ‘go’
It’s best not to read too much into that statement

At Cass

The greens are different up here. Not as toxicly bright, but older and wiser, like wrinkled skin that remembers more than its wearer would like it to. The stones are smaller, massed in packs so they flow like iron filings to a magnet, drawn toward the valley floor where they splay out like toes testing their footprint in damp sand. Grain by grain they are ‘ making land’.

The greens are tired, but it is all a matter of comparison. Just as the most spritely pensioner at bingo is ‘the young one’, set against the lino cut mountains these hues are life, undisputedly. The green is the child in the valley, the quiet one who has ‘been on this planet before’, you can tell by the eyes. Here the mountains guard, protective, like parents with children on the cusp of adolescence. They hover, pretending to be otherwise occupied, tending to their mantles of snow that allow them to go incognito against the pensive sky.

We come here to this valley and palette and bring our own stories, want to know where, why, how? Does the grass know what it feels like to be greener? Do the pebbles ever yearn for their perch way up close to the sky? Made of incredibly squashed and incredibly dead algae carcasses, the castle rock sandstones are in fact a massive sea floor graveyard. Do they remember the sound of the waves?

Why is it that the very first urge I had was to personify the landscape? No shaking of hands, no presenting a particular side of oneself to another. This was a one sided introduction. Much as the words signify elements in the surroundings, they are mirrors and an introduction to the writer, the personifier. The one who wonders about wrinkled skin will develop crowsfeet, will paddle in many oceans, may even play bingo one day if she makes it that far. She will meet ‘old souls’, wear a cloak of her own.

And the grass? It will keep growing, oblivious to its pigment and the deficiencies perceived through other-eyes.