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What was it he saw in that long split

second when the solid rock opened to show

its workings and he went feet first

into the grassed-over, half-forgotten shaft

feeling himself suddenly very small

and divided, one eye as it was, level

with the choughs, taking in the bracken’s

rusty cut and thrust, the dazzling elisions

of sea and sky and whistling out of tune

the way he’d done since time immemorial,

the other up against the granite – the mica,

the seams and grain of it, and the scars?

Was it the truth of the matter, an abstract

of human hands excavating the surface,

centuries of human labour extracting ore,

living through and under the earth, or one

of the stories we tell ourselves about our

selves, one of the parables we pass on

in that long split second under the sky’s

blue seal, provisional, before a rucksack

breaks – or fails to break – the fall?


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