Poems from a Series on the Sierra Minera and Its Mining History


Mina La Verdad de Un Artista


Truth of an Artist, strange name for a mine.

It´s hard to reach. Nobody wants you there.

Some land belongs to private hunting clubs

and other parts are watched for trespassers.


Hidden in a valley, close to industry,

a wooden headframe of an early kind,

a flooded well, rectangular outside

but circular and lined with bricks within.

A family of crows have found a home.

They scatter to the skies as I approach.

And in the tumbleweed that lies beside

what´s left of the old engine house,

two wheels. abandoned, rusting into dust.


It´s elevated on a silvery heap of spoils.

But those who come here hoping to collect

climb higher up to where the hillside´s gash

pours out a wealth of copper minerals,

the rich and brilliant blue of azurite,

the greens of malachite and adamite.





The nineteenth century spawned the deepest wells,

more than two thousand scattered round the hills,

hundreds of metres deep, by many mines.

Most have a breeze block wall for safety´s sake.

But others, often hidden in undergrowth,

provide swift passage to the gates of hell.

How many animals, and humans too,

have fallen to their deaths in one of them?


I´m half afraid to try to see their depths,

or find if they are flooded with a stone,

a thud or splash as it descends inside.

Something below might be awakened there.


Portals to darkness from the outside world.

Within the mines they ventilate the air.

Some draw down moisture, drip incessantly,

flooding the galleries in parts below.

Others once had lifts. Pictures reveal

primitive cages to hold several men.


Some of the major wells were given names:

kings, saints or gods in almost every case.

Mercurio, unluckiest of all:

five miners buried alive. A sixth survived

and lived to go back to the mines again.



El Lirio


El Lirio, the iris, a strange name

Such gracious ruins here. They´re little known

Away from roads where lazy humans drive,

trapped in the  countryside amongst a maze

of paths from quarries and small villages


A roofless building with a flight of wide curved steps

is almost chateau like in ruined grace,

a tunnel to a mine, a torn conveyor belt

that once took all the mining spoils aloft.

Ramped passages remain almost intact,

two huge diagonals with windows in their sides.

Memories of Venice´s Rialto bridge,

extended, raised up high, arch after arch.


Outside the buildings with the woods around

a heap of sludge baked in the summer sun

leads down by levels to a distant town.



El Descargador


The slag heaps here resemble pyramids,

a soft stepped shape like those in Mexico.

The eight kings of the air look down on them.

Beside the pyramids poised halfway up,

Mina Belleza´s gracious ruins lie.

Queen Isobel the Second descended here,

on chair and blankets in a mining cart,

the nearest they could manage to a throne.


A ridge beside these ruins marks the rail

that ran down from the mountain to the road

so lead could be conveyed away by train.


The station´s here but now it´s little used.

The restaurant retains the area´s name

(the downloader). It´s suitable, I think.

We used this place for many, many years,

filthy as pigs, after we´d been down mines.

The staff were always welcoming and kind.

The dining room was always nearly full,

A hundred hams dangled from ceiling hooks.

Photos, food buckets, repro lamps, recall

the miners who worked here decades ago.

The mining´s all closed now but others use

this restaurant.  Big lorries parked nearby.
Their drivers are Spain´s best food connoisseurs.


The food´s still good, but in more frugal times,

less workers stop to eat their lunch in there.

The unemployed prefer a snack at home.

Only three hams hang from the ceiling now.

The mining memorabilia´s packed away.



Mina San Agustin


The passage leads into a cave-like space.

Step through an aperture and you´re inside.

Abandoned rails, a cart, hint at a mine

once huge and complicated in its way.

Eventually, you reach a shaft of light,

spacious as a cathedral where the hill

has broken through. We´ve pìcnicked there,

by marble walls and gypsum, clear as glass.


The fame of this vast mine is lost in time.

It lies forgotten near a restaurant and beach.

Its name appears on a map I own.


One year a murderer took sanctuary there

until a note revealed this to the police.



Mina Agrupa Vicenta


The train that´s not a train toils up the hill.

We hear a lecture first outside the mine.

We tourist miners don hairnets, hard hats.

Inside it´s all made safe with lights and rails.

Dickensian effigies look down at us,

the Artful Dodger in a pirate´s garb.

This mine in fact was never worked by kids.

Pyrite was mined by men explosively

while children picked and shovelled in easier spots.


The sulphurous smell is masked with air fresheners.

It´s just as well. It gave the men the shits,

back in the good old days when it was worked.


This mine is posher, used for concerts now,

Flamenco singers fill the space with sound.

Guides tell the story of the mines. It´s sanitised.



The Partridge of Llano del Beal


His cage was hanging on a cottage wall,

too high for local cats to pester him,

a wooden cage with not much room to move.

an old cage covered in green flaking paint.

I took his photo. He blinked nervously

I put the picture on the internet.

Kind souls protested that I really should

emancipate him from his boxed-up state.


What could I do? To free him would be theft…

I just explained that he´d be Sunday lunch.

His cage was not a lasting place to stay.

And can we carnivores object to this?

A polystyrene supermarket tray

containing a plucked bird absolves the guilt.


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Fiona Pitt-Kethley is the author of more than 20 books of prose or poetry. She is also a prolific journalist. She lives in Spain.[/author_info] [/author]