from Gato Barbieri: A Sequence: [gato b. on antarctic science]

Easier to craft some elaborate comparison
than to simply admit you’re alone.
Years ago, in a hotel whose moisture-savaged
ceiling is indistinguishable from the one

I talk to tonight, I caught the last half
of a late-night film about Antarctic scientists,
one of whom was possessed by shapeshifting evil—
or maybe they all were, it was hard to tell—

but either way, it ended in frostbite & flames.
I’ve never ventured down to the dagger-blade that twists
my country’s south toward the Antarctic
but, for decades on the road, I felt much the same,

isolated in my arcane discipline. Blue ice & red flares
throwing, on everything, a light only I could see.
This, I said to myself, or to the muted screen,
is you, these researchers playing poker in flannel underwear

knowing the shapeshifter will soon possess them.
In hotel mirrors, I used to see a reflection
of a man so like me that I would have been forgiven
for never giving him a second glance.

But I stared him down, like a boxer at a weigh-in,
waited for him to flinch, & when he did, I felt a twinge
the likes of which I’ve only felt at the knifepoint
of a melody when it scrapes upwards, unbroken, from throat

to night sky. He was the lamplight & cry inside the sax.
Not the cry—its residue & wreak. & from that moment,
I knew only two things could ever kill me: fire, or him.
The mirror spiderwebbed, the both of us ash.