Tour of the Cornwall Mine
[The mine] shows what man will do, and whither he will go
in the hunt for valuable metals.
—Elihu Burritt, A Walk from London to Land's End (1865)
In that direction, a tunnel inches
through cliffside under headland, small animal
burrowing away from light.
And here, pick and shovel delve a quarter mile
beneath the ocean's bed,
under sailing ships and whales at play.
The miners, not quite blind to daylight,
leave day behind each morning,
ride a skip down to passages
exhaling the faint breath of underground.
You marvel at the engineering, but
fail to mention—just last year,
nine men and boys
in the cabled skip—a link of chain broken—
dust and sparks, nine lives
down the shaft's throat.
Even now, miners dig underneath
your boots—blessed above
ground with travel-dirt—as you stand atop
mine-works hungrier than earth.
They Run the Train Underground
Under this house, or maybe the tenement
across the way, in stealth
of a passage tunneled out of sight—
under paved roads and church-vaults,
under pews where people pray,
unknowns are traveling through the dark.
Sometimes you wake from a dream
of screaming—train whistle, you think, but
there's only silence striking chords
of the unconscious. Or maybe an unheard
resonance, tremors that rise to shake
the firmest palace to the ground.
Under this house, or the one
next door, foreigners—and maybe
your own countrymen who won't look you
in the eye—are moving
toward the heart of the city.
Your whole house undermined.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA