Dry, flaky pale green and dark yellow ochre colored lichens calico a roughened gritty rock, stained dark gray with age. Wrinkles appear as broken cracks; the sun warmth shadows every feature; and the rock is smiling. It’s a warm image held in my mind that I’m painting with every sense. The slow air is cool 10 and tastes a part of everything the warm light sees, smells a part of everything the rough earth grows. Birds are flying in the valley below. I hear their faint calls, that glide through the air as they glide. A canoe and paddle moving in still water. Sitting on the rock, I look up to the sun, 20 and down again upon an earth that reflects the life of every single growth together. Infinite complexities moving out from me into a gentle blueing simplicity. Grass hill expanses, greenish and worn through in places, revealing light sienna earth. Erosion gully shadows like brown crayon broken lines 30 on faded green construction paper. Distant lone tree shadows interlocked harmoniously with grass bareness, soft dark green shadow-grass into the lighter green of sun-grass. Trees together at a distance are deep brown green shadow-tree and dirt light green sun-tree textures, rough darkened shadows living among rough lightened sunshine, 40 filling the cracks where sloping hills run into each other. Rising hills piled upon hills, with lines where they break one over another, fitting together to form mountains. Mountains reaching down until they become a valley side. Down to shake hands, fingers interlocked, with the other side coming down. 50 Sitting on the rock, I’m at the head of the valley, whose mountains on the right reach out and fold behind themselves, whose mountains on the left reach out and turn like a bent finger in front of me, before collapsing in the distance in a deep warm blue, the different blue of the sky. 60 I follow the mountains back, and their complexities build, reaching toward an opening funnel spreading onto and under around me. The rock is also feeling earth’s beauty dancing, as it’s always done. It has an eye. Something that would never be mistaken for an eye, 70 but something to know the light with. Maybe a cool dark hole, filling a vegetable place where the rock meets the earth. A deep dirt brown color that could be breathed, smelled, tasted, earth. I can say it’s an eye. Not just a shadow hole. Maybe the lichen is an eyelid. 80 I let my eye feel its eye. Imagine a dry lizard to dart out and fork its tongue at the sun. Imagine it to dart back in and lose itself in the rock. I close my eyes, feeling, not staring at the darkness. I know the valley. Relax to let it happen. My eyelids are tight, 90 but my eyes aren’t closed. I’m thinking to make the luciferous impressions dance into phosphorescent shapes I choose. They drift; the darkness loses its softness there! to the left and up a bit to the center. It’s an opening. Feel a light beyond. Imagine a small old gold mine, set into the armpit of a piny mountain. Overtone of green spruce dingy 100 from the evergreens, and the light coming in. But damp, darkening, cool. Smell from ancient layers of small animal dung. I have to bend over, the rough cold clammy rocks solid suspended low above me. I feel crumpled rock sides support the rocks above, 110 transcendent in the darkness. Old miners were flighty creatures; the whimsical hope of gold. Deeper, the cave rocky bed rises to trip me. I quickly catch myself on narrowing walls, and take my hands back from the rock, thinking bruised bleeding knuckles, but not really being able to tell in the wet darkness. There’s a rough upward closing funnel of rock. 120 I crawl on my knees. Spider webs torn off rocks, hanging, set on my face with feathery lines. Then the walls fall away, into an undefined space. I can’t see; it feels open. I turn my feet around to front, and slide slowly forward, my rear on broken rocks. 130 My legs reach down to dangle. My arms propped grasshopper fashion behind me, holding me from the abyss. I feel the cold hard dampness on the back of my calves and thighs. Feet becoming heavy, pulling, I slide, drop down a little more, feeling for a bottom. The bottom wants to be found; it calls. I hold my breath and push off, 140 thinking it couldn’t be far: Old miners were very short creatures. The bottom was hit. A body thudded. Bones softer than rock, and flesh that rushes blood to swell and discolor. Scratched back, elbows and legs. A leaden body cooling in a little pool of water, 150 with limp limbs laying on jagged cut rocks. Silence. Faint breathing. Then, faint giggle laughter echoes. A cheery dry old voice. The distant sound wheezes up and down the line on a lizard’s back, growing louder. Near, and it breaks off like hard cheese. Hear shuffles, of heavy leathered feet, breathing and good natured grunting. 160 Red and warmth through my eyelids grows deep and fades. Open, and a big whitely hairy wrinkled face, grinning. Brown widely spaced teeth, chewed brown tobacco smell, from a lipped aperature with a hairy fringe. His small body, hunched over to me, layered fat with damp dusty decaying old shirts and coats. 170 Dirty red flannel sticks its tear from an armhole. Stubby calloused hands with veins trying to rise above the skin, grasping a swinging rusty kerosene lantern, a yellow source, illuminating, shadowing red vein lined cheeks. His sooted sweat noses me. Dimples lost among age cracks, framed by tangled hair faced, 180 and hatless, balding. His mouth jumps and moves, projects, “Goth me unr. Kin ya speke? Watr air ye, anywae? Watrya wan, ugh?” Grating hard cheese. Antique giggles rasp, opening a rusty lock. I say nothing, painfully. He nods and winks. 190 Clears his hoarse throat, turns his side to me and whinnies, “Gcom monr. Gcom monr.” His arm bent to front. A crooked finger pointing into the darkness. The lantern in the other hand moves the darkness into cracks and behind the jaggedness of the mine. Shiny wetness rusty greenish 200 smell like iron. I see and old rust brown shovel with a broken gray wooden handle half out of the water I’m half out of. The miner moves with the lantern. I hurt to rise. Pants wetness hangs dripping. Painful weakness limping, hurrying after him. His arched back with stubby legs 210 in a waddle trot ahead, darkness brown silhouetted against yellow lantern light off rock walls. Air cool and strangely earth filled. The mine goes straight back a couple hundred feet. The miner cheery nature arguing unintelligible mutters. Then the light and him abruptly left. I run and stumble quickly 220 look bindly around the corner, my arm with hand on the cold rock wall. I don’t see him. Overwhelming fear of getting lost finding me. Smell of urine. Panic flickers like a dying candle. Then out. I step slowly into the darkness. Hands moving searching for emptiness to hard forward in. 230 Empty underwater. My footsteps. Imagine a little old hardbound book. Illuminations on the cover, lines making scrolls and leaves in a symmetrical pattern to hold a name in an embroidered square: Frederick Thomas Sharp. Inside, a leaf with a date: February 26, 1952. 240 Words written as a boy: I came through many dimensions of evil to you; and, though unhurt I may seem, I have countless words in my heart for want of your love. I don’t remember, 250 but the handwriting’s identifiably mine. Dreams fly away, bats like wind, in dizzy gusts. Mathematics, glass and landscape. I went out that window. I see refracted yellow light on the broken rocks from the darkness. Dusty smell. I see the miner’s back. He turns his head over his shoulder, 260 and mutters, “Ah, thair ya air. Look tere.” He’s bent over an open gray iron heavy oak chest, with dented tarnished brass cornered reinforcements, imbedded in loose dirt and rat shit. It’s full of nuts and bolts, rusted and foggy with spider webs The lantern swings on a rope overhead. He mutters, 270 “Gyunguns done no. Wach, an tigk hardr. Mye golde.” He begins to chant, slowly to begin. “Reace chew lefe rowh pew glithe, reace chew lefe rowh pew glithe reace chew lefe rowh pew glithe.” Faster, and the rusted iron begins to silently dance, to change. A maze. 280 Not iron nuts and bolts remain, but become small and intricate rods and walls of rough discolored glass, moving silently into and through each other. Dark holes between the walls, and moving deeper layers. Fascinated, I want to ask him what it is. But he’s fast chanting. A motion from him, and I join the words. 290 “Reace chew lefe rowh pew glithe.” As the glass moves faster, it begins to shine clearly. Faster dizzy whirls to a blurred pattern, sharpening. As a word cryptogram it seems, to puzzle, reveal. He whispers, “Seatg? Keppe saeng chagt.” I keep chanting while he peers 300 closely into the shining pattern moving in the oaken chest. From him, pieces of words appear, voiced, “Thoe.” He frowns, concentrates, mutters more, “Thoe stuft doo, doo, doo.” He says, “Goddamuith, gcomm onr! Thair! Thoe stuft doofefte, thoe stuft doofefte, 310 thoe stuft doofefte.” Relief. I stop chanting, and repeat with him, “Thoe stuft doofefte.” I say it louder, wondering what it means. Then mine is the only voice. The glass in the chest is slower, and roughening. I turn to look at the miner. He’s gone. 320 I look into the oaken chest, and rusted nuts and bolts And then the lantern’s gone. The light is coming from a passage on my right. The words keep repeating in my mind. Thoe stuft doofefte, thoe stuft doofefte. Vision of alchemists and the philosopher’s stone. 330 A feeling of deepening mineral a magic wizard away to call it a stone. Thoe stuft doofefte, and I feel its meaning. I hold it in my hand, and, with heavy humility, step away from the oaken chest towards the light. The cave trembles with me. My thoughts are light. 340 Thinking forward.

February 1971