The Antilles gone, and the Great Bear wheeling lower
under Polaris in a far blue storm of light,
swinging lower in its arc with the coming of each night
toward the soft flare of the Southern Cross;
we, traversing invisible parallels and fabulous latitudes;
Capricorn gone, the sun diminished, the glass fallen
under an aluminum-colored sky, the seas swollen
and the slate swells coming in longer and longer strides,
the last of islands seen, a smell of ice at sundown
(not yet whalespout, no ghost of albatross),
the beginning of the cliffs, the dark gorges, singing chasms,
the lower octaves of what waves, artillery hurled
against ice walls, wind-whine in keener spasms,
and in the night the solitary fires of land;
or cotton fog, cold deep bell tones of surf in fog,
or sting of frozen rain here at the nadir of the world,
all stars long since obscured, all light, all life . . .
and another day recorded on the log.
Engines pounding, seas tuned to creak of steel,
ice plated on the decks, the stanchions, the spars,
ports closed, propeller, drum, close reek of sweat
and human warmth, of cooking food, dead cigarettes,
the month-old papers lying dog-eared in the bunks
under sick-yellow electric glare, the rasp
of month-old tune on parrot phonograph:
here is the dark meridian, the night of time,
the dead zone of forgetfulness at last . . ..
There was a world, a world of sun and green,
and in its softer latitudes there was a war;
there were so many things, once done, once seen,
but those are gone, and that world is no more.