Posted by: John Looker | 8 November, 2009

GOLD RUSH

Here is a second poem drawing on our panning for gold
time spent in New Zealand recently.

We visited Hokitika on the west coast, a gold mining centre where many ships were lost in the dangerous currents and in crossing the shifting sandspit across the mouth of the estuary. We also went to the former goldfields at nearby Ross and at Arrowtown down south near Queenstown.

See their websites at:tp://www.ross.org.nz/information.htm   and tp://www.arrowtown.com/

Old cemetery, Ross goldfield, South Island, NZ

GOLD RUSH

Let us imagine …

let us try to draw out an impression, an image,

of a time long past, of a place that bloomed for a season.
Old workings, and photos in brown and cream, get us started.

From these we may learn of men in their hundreds
landing on a dangerous shore, settling their stomachs,
continuing boldly into the forest.

They must have been carrying all their possessions.
Tents. Spades. Flour and tobacco.
And the flat, prospector’s pan. Bent double
they climbed steadily, told of the gradient ahead.

Above, in the valleys and gullies the lush vegetation
has gone. There’s a mudscape of temporary dwellings,
of spoil heaps and culverts, and everywhere figures
silently digging, constructing or stooping
panning the river, their hands cold and chapped.

Unconscious alchemists, they live to see
the base materials in their vessels yield
to their craft. Whatever secrets they flee
or hardships they must face, this fractious guild
of redneck adventurers yearns to hold
new hope – transmuted lives – in flakes of gold.

© John Stevens 2009

old Chinese miners' village NZ

Old Chinese miners’ village, Arrowtown, South Island NZ

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Responses

  1. This has two edges to me: On one edge is the unconquerable strength of the human spirit, the ability to come to dangerous shores and make a life in a new land. On the other is the destructiveness of the human spirit, rushing after gold in the hope of individual human transmutation, creating in the process:
    a mudscape of temporary dwellings,
    of spoil heaps and culverts, and everywhere figures
    silently digging, constructing or stooping
    panning the river, their hands cold and chapped.
    This is at the heart of the human dilemma we all face.

    Like

  2. This one is a favourite of mine – for a variety of reasons – so I’m pleased that it has something to say for you too. It’s had 52 ‘hits’ but I suspect mostly by people who weren’t expecting a poem!

    Like


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