for Kathy and Ron
Against imperturbable Scotland, ringed with a wall
of basalt like a leather buckle-belt so tight the land
might start to bulge about it, if the land weren’t iron—
as some part of the gull-voiced compact folk around the door
of Drouthy’s and Mennies’ on a Sunday morning, too, is iron—
lies Scott’s Discovery, a three-masted five-man span with coals
in her belly, a lassoed colt nudging at Dundee harbour.
Pterosaur-winged, she carried forty souls full south to the pole;
“a poor sailer”, Shackleton said, a tall ship built low-set to carve
Antarctica’s white encircling sea, for power, not for grace,
her keel from fore to aft a single eucalyptus. For two hard winters
Scott and she were frozen fast by ice broken at last
with dynamite, gazed upon by Ross and Leopard seals.
It must be a brave heart in that small barque, ice-locked,
with wood and rope alone between the howling world and ye.