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Sierra Rainstorm; 1860

An allegory for times that may appear tragic.

The lightning froze the moment
With a whip that cracked the dark;
And the draining desert valley
Turned to marble in the spark.

I could see for but an instant
That the floods were all about,
As they spilled across the washes
More familiar with the drought.

A miner’s camp can take the damp,
But, as this torrent fell,
It seemed intent the earth to rent
To quench the coals of Hell.

The canvas drummed ’til my tent succumbed
To Thor’s almighty pound;
Though try I might the lamps to light
Too quick the wicks were drowned.

I heard a crack from the mine out back,
I rushed into the night;
With one vast shield the clouds had sealed
My world from Heaven’s light.

My hat took wings and vanished;
My slicker slapped my hide;
The rain was bullets, piercing seams
To sting the man inside.

Again I heard that awful crack
That miners learn to dread;
The sound of timbers snapping loose,
I slipped, but forged ahead.

And reaching like a blind man,
Using words I won’t repeat,
I grasped at last an ore cart
When I felt the lightning’s heat.

The thunder took me in its grasp
And shook my very soul;
The lightning showed the mine intact
As I stood before the hole.

Then a rumble; soft, but deeper
Than the mighty thunder’s shove,
Grew and growled and grumbled loud
And tumbled from above.

The rain-drenched earth above the mine
Came peeling from the hill;
That mudslide started toward me
Like a cougar on a kill.

For an instant, though it made no sense,
I raised my feeble arm;
Tears and time were in that mine,
I sought to thwart the harm.

But I reeled and stumbled downward,
Down the trail with its debris;
The mud came crashing ’round my legs,
I kicked and struggled free.

I heard the mine collapsing
As I hit an old mesquite;
I rolled and lay a-thrashing
As I tried to gain my feet.

Dazed and rising to my knees
When came the mountain’s blow;
As, swallowed by the churning earth,
I fell beneath the flow.

The air was pressed clear from my chest,
I cried without a sound;
“My God, deny my grave should lie
Within this muddy ground!”

My heart raced toward it’s final beat,
I sensed the mire roll;
I felt, I thought, my body heave,
Releasing then my soul.

But death was not my lot this night,
The mudslide spewed me out;
Crawling, kicking, lunging hard,
I removed me from its route.

I scaled a bank and groped and found
A firmly rooted pine;
I held and cried while Satan’s tide
Washed away the mine.

The rain went on for hours;
The desert seemed confused;
Shifting water left, then right,
As prospecting pans are used.

Then came a drawn-out silence
As the downpour finally ceased;
The clouds were glowing red, afar,
By mountains to the east.

The rays picked through the rubble
Of the clouds that brought the storm;
And the darkness seemed to scatter
As the air began to warm.

And I shivered; not from weather;
No, I shivered from the heart.
The labors of a thousand days
The night had torn apart.

No rail, no post, no timber
Protruded from the muck
Where long ago I staked my claim
And blasted toward my luck.

But fate was not as giving
As the visions of my dreams;
That kept me searching through the rocks
And picking at the seams.

The morning light was shining bright
When I let loose the pine,
And waded through the knee-deep mud
Toward what was once the mine.

I made my way through the steaming clay
To where the slide began;
The mine now capped, a dream now trapped,
I searched to understand.

I believed that through my labors
Sweet fruit I’d someday taste;
But now, thanks to the “grace of God”,
All effort’s gone to waste.

“So, God, if you are listening,”
I said without a smile,
“The meek inherit the earth, you say;
You gave me quite a pile!”

I stood there stripped of all I owned
Of all I hoped would be;
When then I learned about a God
Who sees what we can’t see.

I raised my eyes above the mine,
Where rain had loosed the rock;
And there, upon the fresh-bare face,
I stared, at first in shock.

As caught in morning sunlight,
And moistened by the rain;
A foot-wide fault was glistening gold,
As God revealed the vein!

Picture of Wes Stephenson

Wes Stephenson

Author, motorcyclist, poet, and adventurer. Let's journey together.

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