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A Miner’s Curse (A Poem)

By Joyce Jacobo

[Author’s Note: Based on an actual legend from near my hometown.]

Abandoned somewhere in the mountains

     deep in Southern California           or so legends say

                         exists a deep mine filled with gold


                                                                     and valuables left behind

                                                                                     by Gold Rush-era miners

                                                                                                  for inexplicable



     there was an elderly prospector who

           claimed to own a map to the mine

                          but was too feeble

                                       to pursue the treasure

                                                    on his own—

                whose reported deficiencies

                           mixed with greed

                                   brought one soul

                                      after another

                                              to the door

                                                    of his humble shack

                                                             in the desert

                             to whom

                                      he relinquished

                                             with great reluctance

                                                    a copy of his prized map

                                                           (in exchange for

                                                                     a small donation)

Each hopeful soul headed straight for the mountains

          where they encountered the same figure—

                     of a tall skeleton                 that held a lantern

                                          within its ribcage

                                    and creaked wicked omens

                                                    as it reached for them like

                                                              (they must have thought)

                                                                             an evil specter

                                                                       or a monster

                                              …which moaned but was too slow

                                                                    to catch those spurred on

                                                                                   by avarice

Each soul would disappear into the mountains—

         while the lantern light in the ribcage of the skeleton

                          would burn brighter and brighter

                                   every night

                                        as it turned an eyeless gaze to the moon

                                                    and howled a lament

                                                                  to the heavens

The skeleton wanders the desert to this day

                                 or so the legends claim—

                  alongside the questions

                            of why it still exists

                                        and what or who

                                                  was the greatest curse

                                                         for those souls

                                                                   lost without a trace


8 thoughts on “A Miner’s Curse (A Poem)

    1. Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Consequently, I also always remembering hearing one additional part of the legend–that only those “meek in spirit will enjoy the treasures of the mountain,” which I took to mean savoring their natural wonders, as opposed to looking for minerals or gems.


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