Poem — Chris Orsman

The Ice Navigators

A sailor’s language does not desert them.
They find themselves at sea again

and sense an ancient motion
in the frozen crests and troughs

of the mineral ocean.
The Owner talks of port and starboard

and thinks of the sledges as prows,
and the tethered men as figureheads.

The instruments of navigation
offer them solace; the daily plotting

is a matter of intense concern.
This is the narrow prosthesis

by which they communicate
and try to salvage something

from the sink of Antarctica.
Each feels as a weight his own ambition

— geological specimens
as remote as the Pleistocene.

It becomes so cold the emotions
freeze on their faces; they manage nothing

but the stoic rictus of the Antarctic
— the repeating, dependant grin.

 

Chris Orsman

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