Penguins are not birds but people -
this is their world.
We, the intruders in scarlet parkas,
wander into their villages
strut about along their paths.
They take no notice
being busy about their business,
pebbles from the shoreline
to raise an egg off the mushy snow,
getting started early before the thaw
early birds catch the krill production
O you thief ! Taking a pebble from another's nest
chased and pecked for it
you toddle off in a squawk of local indignation.
Here's one returning to relieve a partner,
white chested, clean from the sea,
full of food for a stint on the egg,
off she goes then, dirty from the shitty slopes
guano stinking, tobogganing down the snow
to the water, queuing up for the all-together-girls
in we go
ploppity plop then out to sea
elegantly porpoising through the waves.
Deception Island -
the penguin capital
cresting a ring of hills
their road rising from the beach.
Thousands parade up clean, back dirty,
hurrying along, here right lane up, left down,
there left side up, right down,
beaks in air, a steady pace, great walkers.
Every one's an equal here, no king, no ruler,
no classes, tens of thousands of citizen nests
crowning the hills amid rising
choruses of raucous cries,
odour of sanctity, guano stinking
streets and lanes, colonies set off here and there,
routes complex, converging down,
diverging up, alive with movement,
society of self concern
nest protection, egg concern, chick concern,
going and fetching, coming and retching
from early spring til early snow.
After that the silent
long oncoming night.