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Sport 16: Autumn 1996

Bill Manhire — The Adventures of Hillary

page 56

Bill Manhire

The Adventures of Hillary

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 forever …

till finally the yak-shepherd grinned and spoke
and they strolled over the 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.