Spirit Miner

The spirit miner lugs chunks of pyrite
gouged from an abandoned claim,
their glitter increasing as he stumbles
up the stope towards the light of day.

Why shovel gravel in a sluice box,
your hands shaking from quicksilver,
when honest collectors pay good money
for a lopsided cube of fool’s gold?

Why fend off thieves for a pinch of ochre?
To reach the bank safely you must travel
by night, the cactus piercing your ankles,
arthritis worsening from the bitter cold.

It’s hard to stay away from the tavern,
brightly lit and rife with temptation,
the only option being a darkened church
where the warmth of the faithful persists.

Stretched out on a hard pew, wrapped
in a thin blanket, you imagine deity
as a glowing stove that needs no wood.
Then the priest barges in waving his fists.

In the depths of the mine a big blaze
will smelt out the sulphur, its stench
driving off intruders, while the iron,
free from bondage, just bubbles away.

Douglas Smith, formerly a teacher of Anthropology at York University, is a homeopathic physician.and author of several books on alternative medicine. It is claimed (although Dissident Voice has no proof of this!) that Doug and his partner grow the best garlic in Haliburton County. Read other articles by Douglas.