‘Cerro Rico Cerro Pobre’ – James Bardsley

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1990 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicators: Wes Magee, Mike Shields

Beyond the line of an orange hill,
past the Herculean Jesus painted
peeled gold on his crossed stake
planted high above the tincity houses
(Lord over the shattered mountain): children smile with empty mouths.

I’ve travelled through this veined mountain,
stepped across its dark airless spaces
where fingers tore rock from rock, choked in the reek of reeking gases,
tripped under crumbling timber tombs,
touched the children of the men with smooth faces.

I’ve struggled on these ruined slopes
asking Pachamama for deliverance,
cracked my head between stones of misery,
heard the shivering voices of morning children.
As I slide again into the mudriver gorges
they stand in lines on the walls of the valley.

Beyond the pitiless grey church walls
built blank upon bare barren ground
turned out from its geologic home;
this is the place of thinnest air,
where the dawn fists the night
and men crawl as beetles,
search vainly,
pursue improbable comfort,
scratch the broken earth,
glean the wealth of centuries past
and long gone.

I am
the groaning father.

Copyright © James Bardsley 1990

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