from EXPEDITION NOTES
At least I hadn’t lost the sun. My loneliness is too big, reaches interstellar space. I crave a quart of water, a trapdoor of crystals down my neck. I crave light sky the color of peaches. My real luxury: still a blizzard. My hands blow the lantern, my whole life in a white smother. Surface tunnels, symmetrical gray fog, a red working on the radio. The brightest gray eastward blew 50 below. It was witnessing a tragedy, the varied hazards of Little America. My eyes kept cowling to either: men who served authority or tomorrow. A new artificial discipline. Three risks in the germless continent of an active Ice Age. No beleaguered city ever defended the law. It was a game in any direction: blotting barriers, bottomless blocks of history. I wasn’t careful. See nothing, blank. You’re lost now. I preferred a little shipwrecked distant sail.
[Days north of me]
Yesterday the yellow blur of if. The dawnlight faded whitely, I counted three flags. I can define a hard Little America: for warmth brought a blizzard. O searchlight of scrap metal. I remembered it was 5:30. I had little sky. Whose chemicals to clear? Weather report, balloon soundings, another cold cranking, the tunnel by the lantern’s light. The weather was dying. Be careful.
I heard a voice. “Yes you by the ice crystals.”
“So cold,” I said.
I testified in the last hour. At midnight I spelled zero. Leaving gaps in the line. I had traveled from flag to flag. Never a straight line. Without plague. My eyes frozen until the first fire. To catch the corner on the horizon. My lungs crouched to the sockets. Elbow crock, I hesitated thinking of warm, tropical places. The fear grew. Smoke, a tremendous blue darkness.
No broadening twilight, no frostbreath, no God. No wind and radio, no adjusted receiver, no trail and hurricane. No nail to the floor, no ghost of alternative view, no dumb Little America. No killing time, no kite or kite signal. No 2 o’clock, no knees knocking and blur. No flashlight, ladder, broadcast. No blind urging, line-blurred light. No else which was. There was nothing left for it to conquer.
[Note: Primarily through erasure, language and phrases from these prose poems come from Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure by Admiral Richard E. Byrd, a memoir of Byrd’s time at Latitude 80 08’ South. I restricted each poem to one chapter from Alone: “April II: The Night,” “July I: Cold,” “March: The Decision,” and “July II: The Tractor.”]