Skiing Antarctica

Two women skiing unaided across Antarctica reached the
Ross Ice Shelf Sunday...the 90th day of the journey.
(February, 2001. AP

We went south, so far south
the raw fog hushed the screech of gulls
and the last edge of green earth vanished.
Cracking ice hawked and moaned,
sunsets disappeared into sunrise
as we reached the long white summer.
We strapped our heavy sleds behind us,
skied into that white desolation, a solitary
human train, our strange locomotion
of arms and legs. The first frigid
fields were rippled, blown like dunes.
Long passages of light, only shape
and silence. Then switchbacked slopes
of splitting ice, heat of our effort
nothing against the glacial chill.
A three-day blizzard, I kept track of time
on the walls of our tent.
Finally tailwinds, glassy meadows.
We flew in a blur. Days so blind and white,
I caught myself dreaming at noon, eyes open.
Unseen birds called from hidden perches,
unreadable stars blazed in the glaring night.
Weeks disappeared. Where were we,
once those frail borders gave way?
Sometimes lost in the swirl,
a white-sheeted heartland of fear.
Sometimes found, through the opened portal
with ease, freed from time and temperature.
As if our bodies had dispersed,
we were just a wordless strumming
in the crystalline air.


[Next poem]

[ Back to Beverly's page ]

Copyright © Beverly Burch