A Guide to Exploring Abandoned Gold Mines

Edited by Hal Y. Zhang

Copyedited by Chelle Parker

June 2022

Do not bring a flashlight.

In the darkness,
the earth will move beneath your feet.
Trace paths through the throat
of the world, and when it swallows —
when your feet skip a step and fall
through one eternal second of nothing —
your stomach will lurch upward
through the roof of your mouth,
through the miles of rock above,
reaching for a sky it will not find.

When you land, there will be water.
More than you expect. Drink deep.
Taste the wealth of it leaden on your tongue.
Each time your echoing steps interrupt
that holy flow of mineral blood
trickling into the deep downs,
the puddles below will growl their emptiness,
their howls will reverberate
through threads of quartz.
Why did you think we call them veins?
This body is eternal.

The machinery cannot run, or walk,
but it may try to speak. The rubble
will groan in your wake, the screech
of flimsy steel, the clank of broken chain,
the warble of wind through the earth’s teeth.
Do not be afraid.
They have forgotten what it is to be heard,
or remembered. This is what it means to rust:
to become so warped from your purpose,
you no longer have one.

And if you brought a flashlight,
though I said you should not,
flick your wrist.
Chase away the shroud of darkness,
lay eyes upon the foundations
of your faraway reality.
Know that all of it was built here
in these granite molars
and we above are waiting
to be chewed up and spit out,
the way this mountain was,
so we too might know how it felt
to be made of gold.

© 2022 Calley Odum

About the author

Calley Odum is a children’s librarian from Alaska, and as such is only too comfortable with the cold, the dark, and things that go chomp. She and her partner live in Oregon, where they craft crafts, game games, and write when the stars align. Her work can be found in Allegory Magazine and All World’s Wayfarer.