Sharing Territories

Penguin colony, Volunteer Point, East Falkland

Arriving late we left our Defender,
set night-vision and slouched it to the ridge above the beach.
And before we could see them
the cordite reek of guano and murmuring
confirmed we’d found the place –
hundreds, facing the sea as if waiting repatriation,
huddled and grouped
like the prisoners we took at Stanley
who stood, hooded cagoules grey and wet across their backs,
sleeves held just wide enough to shed the rain.

We bunked down and woke first light:
Magellanics leaving their night burrows,
shaking soil from their heads
like cammed-up squaddies from dugouts,
gentoos and kings sharing territories
and the deafening squeal and grouch of it all
as dawn poured muted colours
from the horizon like diesel oil on water.

Ron Scowcroft