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Shackleton II
Anne Tucker

It would’ve been
worse than that
tramp we did where
we repacked everything weighed
just enough food for each
meal even snapped the
handles off toothbrushes


When they left the ship they
left everything behind that wouldn’t
help them get to Elephant
Island any extra
weight anything that
might take that last bit of
effort that would get them to
safety might’ve
been fatal


On the first day
Brian’s in a grump
someone’s brought a friend
a first-time tramper
wearing Doc Martens
instead of tramping boots
and pink spectacles
for sunglasses
Brian walks ahead in disgust
He’s got no idea he says

At the second hut
some hunters arrive by
helicopter and unload
cartons of beer
They argue during the night
In the morning the old
one’s face is cut

Nick offers the first-aid kit
(it’s Brian’s)
and dresses the cut
down at the stream
Medical man are you mate?
Sorry about the language

he says

At the next hut something
has to be done about the friend not keeping
up and the Doc Martens slipping about in
the mud someone who’s fitter
with the same size feet
has to be found
it’s Brian
who’ll lend his boots
and wear running shoes instead
and Nick will carry a
second pack up hills

By this stage
the pink glasses don’t even
provide a rose-tinted view This is
the worst day of my life

he says


They were the worst days
and the best days
waiting on Antarctic rock
in a hut made of boats
eating seal and penguin
never knowing
whether Shackleton made it through
never knowing
for a whole three months
if a ship was ever going to come

Two days in
a hut because of
weather is bad
enough the strict
rationing because we
don’t know when it
will clear we
make bizarre
combinations we’d never
eat at home, cheese, jam
and sardines
but penguin?

It’s funny how
walking out that little
bottle of moisturiser I snuck
in my pack isn’t important
any more water and food and
being warm and dry that’s
all that matters

and just think
that extra weight
could’ve been fatal.

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