Posted in Antarctica

Out of Character

The sheep pen
so called because it resembled the temporary cages
used to parcel sheep
Passengers corralled and watched by security
no air bridges for military aircraft
wait in the pen to be freighted
like sheep.
Our grandfather marked his flock with blue chalk
his neighbours with red, green and orange
escapees captured and returned at shearing.

Colour coded
human sheep also.
The military wore green
US contractors and scientists red
and the New Zealand Antarctic Programme yellow.
Our fellow citizens sometimes sniffed at us
hired help doing the Americans’ dirty work
but not Peter.

I first saw him in the sheep pen
wearing yellow
his overheard enthusiasm
without being earnest
even bringing generous envy
that I could be so uninhibitedly excited.
He seemed sweet
if permissible for a man to call another sweet.

I shouldn’t have been surprised
the New Zealand base often imitated a fraternity house
drinking and rituals
rituals and drinking.

In the winter months I would see Peter
wild haired
wild spirited
can or bottle, life raft clutched
chimpanzee grin of a wild colonial boy
having the best of times
but his eyes were of a ship in a bottle.

For the back story click Backstage



Most of my life has been spent on the bench, occasionally called into the game by extravagance or attenuation. Waiting has turned a loner into a recorder - nondescript and inconsequential, more not noticed than overlooked - the non-vantage point of children not yet considered old enough to understand. Orphaned Islands (Un)poetry is a lifetime of picking anecdotes up and not throwing them away. Stories collected like odds and ends placed in a box in the basement, the garage, the garden shed - uncertain as to what their use might be but knowing that one day there might be one.

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