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A few years ago, I wrote a short article for "The Huntsville Times" about how writing a poem is actually the search for the spiritual. My writing poetry is an attempt to transform the grit of daily life into more than itself. One way I do that is, sometimes, by looking at the past. A big part of American history deals with our desire to strike it rich. That can be seen from the gold rushes of the past to the current greed by the oil industry and Wall Street. Sometimes thinking about the past puts things in perspective for me. My poem below deals with this issue that is so "American."

Photographing Bodie

Everything was left in place
in that high town dug so deeply
underground, the magazines
on the rack, billiard cues
on the table, the drinks
still set, a world map
schooling you to new mines.
But what gain was there
in Bodie? The corrugated
buildings housed the fortune
grinding everything down
for that moment of gold.
Now the brilliant light,
thinned by snow and dry wind,
heat and cold, polarizes
the gaming wheel, your last
poker chips. Coffins and
sewing machines, typewriters,
skis, a violin, its pieces
all unglued by dust, do
the speaking for you
as if you cast them down
like demons unto the earth,
a scar in the Nevadas cut
in haste, sick with altitude,
dehydrated, your bones chilled.
The human eye tries to correct
the colors here, find the contrast,
make up the difference with
filters, but we know the truth,
of the fires consuming you,
street by street, shop by horrid
shop, so violent a struggle
between you and the outside.
We mourn you isolated
in your death, arrested
in your frenzy to get somewhere,
torn by need. Did you find
what you were after? Or is it still
buried beneath you like
some mother lode never found?

---copyright, Virginia Gilbert
Published in "Greatest Hits"