Poem – THE MAN WHO ATE HIS BOOTS (By Peter Taylor)



I remember now.


Air so still you could hear it

breathing through the frozen shrouds,

the crack of floes caressing hulls as if

ships could talk to each other.


Men slept fully clothed, smoked,

drank tea, cooked, read books

from the library, and pretended

that this was all normal.

On holidays we sang.


Five we sent home, leaving

125 men, four boys, a dog

and a monkey to eat

ten slaughtered oxen

and the 8,000 tins.


Torrington was first, then Hartnell,

then Braine. We buried them sleeping

in the hardscrabble earth, the voice

in each of us thinking

who will bury me?


They say I ate my boots on another map,

and now the ice ate me. I am

a secret, a scrap of paper,

a myth.


In the second summer

they abandoned me, abandoned hell

to find hell, the masts

a useless compass to snow blind men

pushing the dying boats laden

with silverware, curtain rods, soaps,

and The Vicar of Wakefield—

desperate to find open water,

desperate to find water,



And the seal eaters distant and curious

to see men drop in their tracks, pushing

their faces into the snow as if

not to see what was happening.


Our deaths begat a golden age of exploration.

Those after me, the brave ignorant men,

collaring foxes to cheer me, seeking

bounties to own me, their footsteps

leaving me in this white madness

to think of Jane and the distant palms,

uttering the same prayer.


Find me. Find my men.


Originally published in Aperçus Literary Magazine (US)


Author Bio: Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor has published two books and three chapbooks and his poetry has appeared internationally in journals and anthologies. He has worked as a printer and bookbinder, medical publisher and institute director and holds a Master of Arts degree in English literature. He lives in Aurora, Canada.