Ginger Essence


After the strong reader response to our feature in GOQ‘€™s current print edition on Maurice Hickey in the Antarctic, we thought we’€™d keep the snowbound theme running just a little longer.

James Walton is a poet who lives and works in the Strzelecki Mountains in South Gippsland. His work has appeared in Eureka Street, Australian Love Poems, The Wonder Book of Poetry, Sudden Presence, the Anthology of short-listed poems in the ACU National Literature Competition, Bluepepper, Australian Poetry, and The Age newspaper.

Now then. No more context’€¦this lovely piece speaks for itself.


Ginger Essence


Mawson you were my hero

holding to an ember in

the stubbed out ends of flinty life;

flickering wraiths pilfering from smother drift

conscious of your will just glowing there.


Did you wake at the barking for the rest of it,

how they circled in love for you,

licks telling all their secrets

a whimpering prayer of cold necessity

in an adoring brush against leg.


Those dust ridden glacial beds

Flinders Ranges by foot, horse and camel,

no call of muzzle in hand beside the fire;

reminding in the unreflecting desert night

the crevasse trap of relentless white.


By injured call from the crystal drop –

Innis gone dogs straining in seeing howling:

sharing the slim feast of skin and bone

no laughter in the cannibal troupe

clowning among ourselves at your distance.


Returns that won’€™t come ashore.

George, Johnson and Mary too weak,

we carried them in morbid need.

Shot at evening turn of day to dream,

we ate their livers as their souls deflated.


The ‘€˜pluckiest’€™ one you called me.

Harnessed in a voluntary will

we pulled us three by sastrugi finale,

Mertz gone when he bit his finger off

alone for thirty days to Denison Hut.


The rifle discarded for knife after Haldane,

Christmas soup of Winsome’€™s bones

‘€œcracked open with a shovel’€.

Should have seen what was coming,

my pertinacious skull boiled whole


Karabatic winds so loud

noiseless in horizontal presence,

soles taped back to feet

no licking clean in six pairs of socks,

tongue taken with voice in the jagged end.


Inhale the mercy of my silence,

breathe the straw of anabiotic prose.

Ascend from near death fall now,

leg first wallow in ironic husky straps

heart sunk in the Aurora’€™s shimmer departure.


Aladdin’€™s cave unrecognisable stranger –

rescue team not knowing who was saved.

I would have known your scent,

could have raised the alarm in preconiscient

mind talk of smell as witness.


The last to cherish you,

in my eyes more than a saving grace.

Our journey played on a larger note now,

and inspirational coin series too –

of the heroic age and Erebus still burning.


Image is an unpublished photograph by Maurice Hickey from his recently discovered archive featured in GOQ Volume 1:2 : Tarbrush Hickey in the Frozen South


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