Gold Fever

Rain interlaced with birdcalls, the god-
forsaken wail of a cat in heat
& without warning a crash of thunder
so close it’s simultaneous with the flash.

We lean over the porch railing, crane our necks
peering into the dusk. Some black
or scarlet oak must still be shivering,
its newly unfurled leaves as if
in the throes of a proprietary wind
with the raw stripe—sapwood laid open
from earth to sky—where the lightning-tree
stretched one revelatory limb.

A heartbeat later the rain turns torrential.
We have to pull our chairs close to talk.
Let me tell you, some of these eastern creeks
can really tease honey from the rock
says
our visitor, hunched around his hunger
like an inverted question mark, wire-
thin arms tense with current as he pulls out
his portable titanium sluice box
& the green plastic pan—only eight
dollars through the mail.
Says

there’s one thin seam that runs the length
of the piedmont from Georgia to Maine:
in plate tectonic theory, perhaps
the very line where the continents
tried to fuse. Somehow you need
that heat, those exact pressures.

I decide to save for later
my polite queries about his children
whom he’s just been up to visit.
He’s busy unscrewing a vial
full of dust, balances a grain
on his fingertip. You don’t do it
for the money, just the realization:
it’s been lying there on that creekbed
for ten thousand years.
He runs
an anxious hand through thinning hair.
Here, feel how heavy—how hard the gold
itself tries—this little grain!
to get under your skin.

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