At the Mines of Chile’s Deserts

by EMILY STRAUSS

“Estamos bien en el réfugio los 33” —These were the words written by one of the 33 miners trapped in the San José mine, near Copiapó, Chile, in 2010. The note was attached to the drill that the rescuers had used to find them; it was the first communication between the miners and the world 17 days after a mine shaft collapsed above them. Altogether they would spend more than three months trapped in a tunnel 2,257 feet underground.
—Wall Street Journal, Dec. 7, 2012

On the bare beige mined-out desert
the empty nights froze solid beneath
pinned-up stars, miners’ families emerged
from white shadows and knelt beside
burning coals in dusty woolen capes.

Below, in a man-dug cave the rank air
breathed hot and wet, the smooth stone
solid but not permanent, prone to great
heaving cracks, trying to claim its own
spaces, plied by certain natural forces.

At last probes found the men, half-naked
half-savage, skeletal, desperate, steel bits
drilled two months of solid rock down,
each man was threaded out into a glaring
sun, the cave finally relieved of its ghosts.

Originally showcased online by Haunted Waters Press April 25, 2013.


About the Author

Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 450 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is a Best of the Net and twice a Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Oregon.

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