The Adventures of Hillary

Bill Manhire

Hillary frowned impatiently.
He’d go ahead with his own plans!
Apricots, dates, biscuits and sardines:
then he donned his three pairs of gloves.

He stamped around muttering
feeling his heart lurch like a vehicle
halfway down a crevasse.
‘If, if, if,’ he added grimly to himself.

So December came in a rush;
the dog teams fanned out across the snow
barking a bit at the short Polar summer,
while he fretted in his tent, or leant

on his pick and frowned at the pack-ice. If, if, if,
if only the blue skies and breeze
of his father’s bee farm, that billy of smoke
where the hills soar up for ever ...

till finally the yak-shepherd grinned and spoke
and they strolled over to where
the sherpas sat by the tidy tents of the Swiss.
Everest! and later he recalled

staring along the line of the Scotsman’s finger
to the strange taste of mint on the summit,
while a thousand halls filled for the lecture,
chairs in the soft grey air.