March 29, 1912
by Frederick Michaels
On an endless ghostly sea of ice,
we hold against a veil of white wind,
our tent more tomb than refuge.
Safe, but only to count final minutes,
we huddle near fire without warmth,
spared at least the fear of darkness
while last words are painfully found
in a morning’s mind-numbing cold.
With bodies drained of strength and will
by this wretched beguiling wilderness,
our mastery of the pole feels but hollow.
The ash taste of Norway’s flag waving,
marking zero degrees south before us,
fills our mouths still these weeks later.
Just 34 days behind Amundsen’s dogs,
our bodies man-hauled near to death.
English character, so well appointed
to this noble task, defeated so cruelly,
forfeit of glory, fortune, and now life.
History will not be kind to our account
— triumph wanting, pitiful fate sealed
in an ungodly shroud of white crystals.
Perhaps a few pages for Captain Scott.
We others? — an overlooked footnote.
Howling west winds swallow voices
worn to bare whispers by exhaustion.
Dying men struggle to say good-byes
in ways men have done over centuries.
I conjure visions of Oates and Evans,
long dead on the horrible trek here.
My ink frozen, my pen slows, stops.
I think I am asleep.