From Route 64 South of Raton
I go west toward the crimson
Sangre de Cristo range.
Weeds like fingernails scrape
my VW's bottom while the tires
trace tiny strips of pavement.
Here the remains of Dawson die
another untimely death.
Abandoned since the 1950's when
natural gas replaced coal, the
mines are quiet, no longer an
origin of heat and light.
Stiff from the long drive,
I slip off the seat and
the coal sand grits its teeth
beneath my feet. I glance
both ways, alert for reptiles
and snoopers like myself, and
sneak past the "trespassers
will be prosecuted" sign. Pale
as the crosses in the cemetery,
it names some distant owner as
possessor of this noble past.
Like icons to ancient gods,
two smokestacks cast
their shadows on the dry earth,
and silence rings through
the lean streets of this ghost
town where concrete steps stagger
beside foundations whose
houses were removed when their owners
left. The only discord comes from
me, lone intruder into history. A
suspicious wind slips across the
mesa to the cemetery where the last
names remain: Silvino, Ybarro,
Zaccayinno, and more. Shrines without
graves for 383 men who died in mine
disasters. Their ashen memorials erode
like memories, while snakes shed their
skins and deer their antlers far above
the veins where men and coal mix.
Published in the 1993 "cold - drill."