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.