David Chorlton

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Ghost Mine

A disused boiler juts
between the trees with a flap
on hinges open
wide enough for the darkness inside
to show, while cold light
falls across the indestructible curve
that contains it.

The way here was a steep
and winding struggle with the weight
of metal and ambition
pulling hard on ropes
for the mules to haul unquestioningly
from the life zone marked
by mesquite to the one
of pinyon pine.

Animals come
to sniff the scattered parts
of old machinery and
examine what remains now that
the noise has stopped
and the dragon breathing fire
died on its feet.

The trail begins as stone
and softens
on its way through oak
and sycamore
until the switchbacks lead
to a final climb
ending at a patch
of snow the sun cannot reach.

The parts with nothing left to belong to
lie as they have done
on the slowly changing shades
of earth along the slope
on which they were left, to indicate
someone was here
who didn’t care
what was abandoned, and took
the fast route down.

A Painted redstart has returned
where once the steam rose
and metals pumped
their energy while miners
scorched the air with whiskey breath.

Scenes to Disappear By

A steep rise begins
with dark volcanic rocks
where the foothold is a nervous layer
of tiny stones. Another step

and the ridge is close enough to tempt
a final effort to reach the sky
where it is open;

where no one who enters
can ever return.


A trail thins
to where it is no more
than a scent, and not even the coyote

knows what or who
it is following.


Winding trails. Rock walls
that raise the sky
and a circling hawk who draws
attention from the dizzy ground.


As the owl comes down
to its prey

its wings shake off the stars.

David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications on- and off-line, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His most recent book, A Field Guide to Fire, was his contribution to the Fires of Change exhibition shown in Flagstaff and Tucson in Arizona