Wintry Return

Back in the city, an alien land,

I walk as some revenant might do

or a visitor from another planet

who nobody sees or sees right through

unsighted eyes passing by on another side.


I've been to the great south

a thousand miles of turbulent sea,

Drake's Passage a roar of wind

below Cape Horn,

albatross turning astern

perpetual motion

hours, days, months

circling the frozen ocean.

Glaciers as high as mountains

calve archipelagos from cliffs of snow,

icebergs drifting among the growlers, bergy bits

and brash beyond the fast ice.

Pintardos turn in the grey air.


Penguin cries break solitarily the overcast silences.

Long abandoned huts, memories of enquiring visitors

slowly decay in the restless wind -

the storm shattering the mirror glass,

three men from Faraday Station

lost on the ice shelf,

uncomforted death, slow probably, full of thoughts,

the floe drifting out to sea

with the wind never changing.


Nobody down there lives for long,

Only the snowy petrels fly in the endless night

Offshore the orcas seek out

the returning penguins in the spring.

My spirit rises to that magnificence of buried rock,

ever moving sheets of ice,

the endless song of the banshee wind.

In a land without people I am human;

in all that terrible beauty I remain beyond.


Back in the city I walk the streets

as a revenant might do or a visitor

from the ice land's silences.

I find quiet corners in which to weep

for the blinkered faces, the sudden look of pain on a schoolboy's face, satchels too heavy on his back perhaps or some other sudden recognition

instantly closed off as he sees my glance,

Christmas lights mocking the cold flow

of coins in comely gutters.


I weep for that girl's face bound with tape,

a hole in it to give her air,

while they did the unimaginable and slowly killed her dead:

all of us responsible.

And the little boy thrown on the railway line

sliced up by the unknowing train

by other boys the perpetrators - boys you note not men

nor the matronly she-bitch of Gloucester neither.


These are but samples -

Celine Figard's the latest,

a foreign guest.

Do not forget her name



Nobody sees the tears

dropping behind a newspaper.

Antarctica's magnificence too pure

for human eyes, I 've come back

from the wind-drift waves

gag on it


the oil washing up

on Skomer Island.


Back in the city, an alien land,

I walk as some revenant might do

or a visitor from another planet

who nobody sees or sees right through,

passing by on another side

unsighted eyes

my eyes have seen.


11 December 1995 Revised 1 January 1996

Revised 20 February 1996. 2. November 1999.