‘You brought the books.’ He eyed her bulgy bag. His mind saw them in there. Tattier than when he first met her. Even their name, penguins, after some mythical beast, annoyed his prosaic soul. When they were first assigned he had been shocked at her offhand stance. Wearing them away molecule by molecule. They wanted such costly precious rarities safe in The Vault. ‘It’s what they’re for.’ Turning a page. Quick recovery. He’d been taught the correct romantic tone. ‘And bring no book, for this one day we’ll give to idleness.’ Woo her. Keep this Queen so rich, from such ancient bloodlines. ‘Love, now an universal birth.’ Ironic. She couldn’t see why the geneticists valued him. She buttoned her travelling coat over her bulging stomach. A Queen’s firstborn belonged to Them. The next one would be hers. But not his. ‘I’m taking the books.’
Today at dVerse https://dversepoets.com/2022/01/17/prosery-bring-no-book/ Ingid has set a Prosery. That’s a ‘prompt where we write prose based on some given lines of poetry. This can be flash-fiction or creative non-fiction, but it cannot exceed 144 words.’ Todays quote is from Lines Written at a small distance from my House by William Wordsworth.
Scott Base, Antarctica. You northern people with your bright sun and iced tea. It is winter here. Eight layers of clothing. I sit still and quiet between jobs. No wind today. Be still and be warm. To move stirs the cold eddies. Soon I will leave the tent and observe the insistent instrument. Then back again to be still and rewarm. The ice grows apace turning the sea to ersatz land. Returning penguin fathers will nurse their babies on their toes and shuffle singing in and out of the warm circle. Once, men stole their eggs. Behind the shadow of the volcano a red moon rides on the humps of the low river hills. Soon no other light but the shifting, slithering green spirits in the sky. Two more red moons then spring will bring bright sun and hot tea on the ice. Home.
The idea is, in Lillian’s words: “Instead of poetry, we take the prompt, and insert it word-for-word, into a piece of prose that can be no more than 144 words in length. It can be what is commonly called flash-fiction. Or we can delve into memoir or nonfiction. BUT, the key is, it is NOT poetry! There are three caveats for Prosery Mondays at dVerse: 1) we must write prose, not poetry; 2) it must be succinct: no more than 144 words; and 3) we must include the prompt line, word for word, in the body of the prose.”
This short collage film is dedicated to Herbert Ponting, Antarctic story teller par excellence.
Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched With a woful agony, Which forced me to begin my tale; And then it left me free.
Since then, at an uncertain hour, That agony returns: And till my ghastly tale is told, This heart within me burns.
I pass, like night, from land to land; I have strange power of speech; That moment that his face I see, I know the man that must hear me: To him my tale I teach.[i]
Antarctica, the Great White South, seems to have inspired more words than it has snowflakes. Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who went there with the famous explorer Scott of the Antarctic, said:
‘When I went South I never meant to write a book: I rather despised those who did so as being of an inferior brand to those who did things and said nothing about them. . . . I discovered that, without knowing it, I had intended to write one ever since I had realized my own experiences.’[ii]
Herbert Ponting wrote, took photographs and made film. Often he used his images to make multi-layered collages. Some contemporaries criticised his collages for ‘lying’ about the truth. Others, such as Scott, viewed his work as art pieces. Scott called Ponting a ‘camera artist’.
Before he left for Antarctica Ponting was already famous for his travelogues illustrated with his own beautiful photographs.
In 1910 Ponting sailed to Antarctica on the Terra Nova with Scott.
The men heading south with Scott certainly knew Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s seminal English Romantic poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. Coleridge could have been writing about the Terra Nova’s trip south:
And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he Was tyrannous and strong: He struck with his o’ertaking wings, And chased us south along.
And now there came both mist and snow, And it grew wondrous cold: And ice, mast-high, came floating by, As green as emerald.
I particularly enjoy Coleridge rhyming ‘cold’ and ‘emerald’. The Ancient Mariner’s dialect accent is so clearly heard in that rhyme.
Scott never left Antarctica, but Ponting did. In his posthumously published diaries Scott told his own story. Since 1913 they’ve never been out of print. Ponting told his version of the story in ‘The Great White South‘.
Then, like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, Herbert Ponting felt compelled to spend the rest of his life retelling the story of the expedition.
Here is a story I like. It is about a penguin and a person. Someone loved this story so much they made and posted this Giff that inspired my very short story.
A Foe Vanquished. Such a display of poor taste. Such unexpected behaviour. If I were this penguin I too would be offended by such lurid trousers making such casual approach. The elegant creature simply wasn’t having any of it.