American Muse: T.R. Hummer

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“Shackleton’s Biscuit”

Of ox and luncheon tongue, six hundred pounds;
of Wiltshire bacon, seven-tenths of a ton.
Seventeen hundred miles they walked, and it was
pony meat that saved them. But one biscuit, this one
Of thousands, baked by Huntley & Palmers, a special formulation
fortified with milk protein, survives—the men
Long dead, and the ponies, whose lives flew through
Bullet holes easily over the frozen labyrinth of the Fortuna Glacier,
all gone to powder. Found a century later in the wrecked
Larder of one of Shackleton’s way stations, it remains
perfectly nutritious, and sold at a Christie’s auction
Is worth a thousand-some sterling. “We had seen God in
His splendors; we had reached the naked soul of man,”
He wrote. And: “This biscuit,” said a Christie’s director,
“is an object that really catches the imagination.”

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