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.