Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Penguin, we squat the coast of extinction
our home, the violence of a rocky shore;
Before the soaring terror-beauty of ice
the exquisite horror of a diving ocean,
under an ecstatic crush of frozen light
our ancient dignity of glacial meditation.
My body bright mantra of candle-blubber
tugs through the soar and into the pour
of feather-thrust dives in mindless voids,
snatching the silvery fire of quick fish
from the southern ocean’s frozen heart;
Where glacial spirits of an eternal snow
whisper survival’s secret in ears of salt
and a pure ivory bone of deeper ocean
rings the long whale-backed horizon,
light in the empty, you tremble to enter.
This timeless circle, this frozen world
now Cracking into splinters of seconds
contaminating the constant egg of day;
My feet can no longer shuffle to the chants
of chaos, the chasming voices of the ice.
Now you and your impossibilities of progress
without the metal creatures at your control:
You waddle in bags of ungainly feathers
waste as dead fish in our tempests of Ice,
and huddle here under limp imperial flags
around disease deposits in black toilet bags.
I sweep with my paddle the West Wind Drift
of deep ocean current, islanding Antarctica,
propelling this planet in the cycles of seasons,
balancing the sea-spread of an ocean’s temper
ringing Antarctic in nurturing hands of ice:
I pause in my paddle in the West Wind Drift
adjusting to the crush of new-broken ice
out-swimming a spill of fatal industry oil,
a warm imbalance invades my downy feathers...
I can out-stare Death in a glare of sea-lion’s eye,
but in the mask of your eyes, penguins multiply,
then die, in the comforts you wear as disguises:
We disappear to depths as you return to the skies.
Gondwana is the name for the ancient continent that joined Australia and Antarctica. Climate change threatens the whole area with devastation.
Climate change is a growing concern for penguins that live in Antarctica—the emperor penguin and the Adelie penguin. These species depend on sea ice for access to food and for places to breed. But the sea ice has been disappearing, and penguin populations along with it. A 2008 WWF study estimated that 50% of the emperor penguins and 75% of the Adelie penguins will likely decline or disappear if global average temperatures rise above pre-industrial levels by just 2 degrees C—a scenario that could be reached in less than 40 years.