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