Sunday, July 13, 2014

graveyard dredge: a poem



It's hard to think now, how men with their

shovelfuls and boatloads and sideroads mixed

the best color, the good rock, the pay streak, the bedrock.




Get a good look at shafts and rigs and steel hammers slamming




below the camp, beavers damming.




Get a good look at 8 square meters of tailing piles

men febrile and fevered, for miles




filling boxes with tools to reshape iron and wood




boxes of household and

grub, and wide metal tubs 

and the women lugging

ladles and bowls, stokeing wood-burning stoves.


They hauled anything they did not fear to lose, except




fingers and toes, 

 a man's body sliced in half

under pressure and hose.


Dead men, like dozers 

driving steam into frozen muck.




Get a good look at men, black-faced with grease

skin drawn tight against bone

scarred by an iron bucket's icy stones.




The dredge monster is asleep now

all rust and bones.


 So much required to pursue their desire

this great force, gold, like a god.


riches flowed


Women drank mint tea from thin rimmed cups

and men, with their restless hands and drunk injury




pierced the ground and staked fortunes,

PAID IN FULL

with their blood.



*Poem and photos originated at Coal Creek Mine on the Yukon River during a writing workshop with poet, fiction writer and essayist, Gretel Ehrlich.