Ice Hole Ghosts by Marc Woodward

Ice Hole Ghosts

I quit my job in San Francisco
when I heard the Klondike news.
Got myself a pick and shovel,
swapped work boots for my shoes.

I bought a year’s supply of food
to drag behind me on a cart,
joined the rush up to the Yukon
with a young man’s eager heart.

The Chilkoot Trail was harder
than any of us guessed
some turned back, others died,
the weak ones just got left.

I teamed up with a Prussian
to look out for each other,
side by side we hauled our loads,
two bending, wheezing, brothers.

We lit blazes on the permafrost
until the clod had thawed,
shovelled out the dirty grit
then lit our fires once more.

When the April melt got hold
we built sluices out of wood
and sifted through the dirt for gold,
seizing any grains we could.

The following winter winds
had me hanging by a thread.
The Prussian took with frostbite
and the Ice King left him dead.

I bought another plot of land
and thereon staked a claim.
I turned a profit not from gold,
but from selling on again.

I came down from the goldfields,
left the dreamers to their toil,
bitter for my losses buried in
the strip mine’s grimy spoil.

I’m now back at the Chronicle
where I write the best I can,
but the ordeal left me broken,
I’m a whisper of a man.

‘Thar’s gold in them thar hills!’
the laughing printers nudge and tell,
but I’ve left the ghosts of Sourdoughs
digging ice down into hell.

Marc Woodward is a poet and musician resident in the West Country. He has been published in anthologies from Ravenshead Press, Forward Press, OWF, and various magazines and web sites including Ink Sweat & Tears and The Guardian web pages.

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