Antarctic Passage
Claudia Buckholts

Antarctic Passage

Leaving Punta Arenas, at last we’re underway.
The ship ploughs the water like a wheat field,
a furrow that closes instantly, leaving the sea
unwounded. After Cape Horn, silver waves
lift a hundred feet into the air. The pewter-
gray ship glides between them like a small
sacrifice into a great mouth. Icebergs loiter

all around us, deceptively small. Days
of uneasy rest. I’m flung against the metal
walls of my cabin, heave into a pail, sea
water dripping from a porthole. I undergo
sickness, a fire as though my blood were
burning, such chills I can’t warm myself,
and wonder why we came to seek the wild

ends of this world. Caught in the nets
of the sky, we’re harvested, flung against
the rocks, blown like seeds before the wind.
The blue Antarctic ice lies beyond us,
unreachable, cities of ice seized by the blue
wave. Days pass, we survive the Drake
Passage, its tumult, its terrors. Now I see

whales spouting, a pod of dolphins frolicking.
An albatross swoops through haze. Sunlight
spreads across the summer water, though
frostbite still clings to our fingers. Dreams
are transported from our sleep, like convicts
to a barren continent. This white place tenanted
by long, blue shadows is where they go.

Claudia Buckholts

is the author of Travelers on Earth (Main Street Rag, 2023) and two other poetry collections. She has received creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and is a recipient of the Grolier Prize. Her poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Minnesota Review, New American Writing, Prairie Schooner, Southern Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere.