Skiing Antarctica

-in 2001 Liv Arnesen, 48, & Anne Bancroft, 46, first skied across Antarctica

We'd come south before where raw fog
hushes the screech of gulls, the last edge
of green disappears. We'd heard ice
hawk and moan, watched sunset dissolve
into sunrise, austral summer,
the three-month day. Icy lawlessness
at the earth's base was our own anchorage.

November, we strapped heavy sledges
behind us, skied into that bitter desolation—
a solitary human train, our strange locomotion
of arms and legs. The first frigid fields
were rippled, blown like dunes.
Frost-blue passages of pure shape, silence.
Through the Ulvetanna Range—switchbacked
slopes of splitting ice, the heat of our effort
nothing against the glacial chill.
One four-day blizzard, I tracked time
on the walls of our tent.

Finally tailwinds, glassy meadows.
We opened our parasails, flew in a blur.
Snow blind, we were dreaming at noon,
eyes open. Unseen birds called from hidden
perches. Stars blazed in the whitewashed night.
Where were we? Lost in the swirl,
a sheeted hinterland of fear.
And found, through the opened portal,
freed of time, temperature, as if our bodies
had dispersed. We were nothing.
Just a wordless strumming
in the crystalline air.


First published in Ontario Review   Copyright © Beverly Burch

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