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Sunnyside by Mike Adams

Writing / February 27, 2013

BMT patient Mike Adams reads his poem titled Sunnyside about his dear friend Dolores. This poem and others can be found in his book Steel Valley.

Mike had a bone marrow transplant a year ago.  While in the hospital he participated in the healing arts program and would hold poetry readings for the staff. It was a healing experience for the staff and himself.

Mike was the featured poet at a book store in Evergreen, CO a few months after his transplant.

Dolores and I drive the winding blacktop that hugs Cement Creek, sunny May morning, coming down from Gladstone and the Sunnyside Mine – -all abandoned now —  back to Silverton. High above, the sun shines on the slopes of Storm Peak, but we’re at the bottom of the valley, running through a dark boreal forest of spruce and fir.  Dolores points out the grade of the old narrow-gauge railroad — built in the 1880s — that served the mine, closed since the early 1990s, last working silver mine in San Juan County, the rails pulled up years ago, stacked like rusted cordwood at the railroad station in town.  Signs of bygone mining days all around – falling down buildings, wood silvered with age, holes in the hillsides, slate-blue tailing ponds, and after a few moments of silence I say, those rails might have been made where I grew up, Homestead, Andrew Carnegie’s steel works.  Yes they were, Dolores says,  I saw Homestead stamped on the sides of the rails.  And then I see it, you never leave anything behind, you take it all with you, think you’ve left the old mill town, low green hills, the slow brown river, smoke and stink, but it’s all seeped into your pores and still with you right here beside the fast mountain stream and soaring peaks– the mills of Pennsylvania and mines of Colorado, all tangled together.  Carnegie built his mills, fed them with the blood and dreams of  men and women brought by the boatload from Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Italy, Greece, Russia to the hell and hope and struggle of America, a dollar a day, 12 hours, seven days a week, a hundred dollars to the widows when the men died in explosions, cave-ins, fell into vats of molten metal.  He fed it all to the furnaces and mines – ore, coal and men.  Crushed his workers with guns and thugs and mind-numbing labor, made his fortune and built a nation.  Then he gave it all away.

I learned to swim in the basement of the Carnegie Library in Homestead, fed my love of books there, gazed up in awe at the Tyrannosaurus skeleton in the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, read there about the Rocky Mountains and dreamed.   Now, all these years later, I find a Carnegie Library in Silverton.

How we are shaped by land and water, the work of a lifetime, nothing ever lost, Cement Creek, the Monongahela River, everything carried along —

Silverton mines quiet, sinking
by slow stages back into the earth,
Homestead mills gone to weeds
and failing memory.

A dilapidated assay office,
beside it, a rusted ore cart –
filled with black soil
and raspberry bushes.