The sluice was robbed; the thief is in the crowd;
Among the onlookers, the sky itself is larcenous
That set with flint and steel of the clouds
The air alight: the azimuth’s the arsonist.
What do suspects know? The weathered boards
Frame accomplice torrents they careened with;
Silence claims cacophony, the plains their hoards;
The adit abandoned is witness to a zenith.
Fragments of millennia washed down in sand,
Atoms to aurum from stars down strata travel —
Not wire gold that crevices wind in strands,
But fugitive shapes recumbent on a strand —
A masonless quarry, quarry hunted in gravel.
NOTES for Students of English
Sluice – A sluice box, a box or trough through which gold-bearing gravel is washed.
Adit – (pronounced ADD-it) – A nearly horizontal passage from the surface in a mine.
Frame – A play on two meanings: 1) to surround with a structure; 2) to devise false evidence of guilt against an innocent person.
Atoms to aurum – Aurum is the element gold which formed inside stars.
Fugitive – A play on two meanings: 1) running away, pertaining to an escaped criminal; 2) fleeting, evanescent, changeable.
Strand – A play on two meanings: 1) a string; 2) a riverbank.
Quarry – A play on two meanings: 1) an open-air mine;
2) an animal or person being hunted. This is an example of two different ancient words converging in their modern spelling. Quarry meaning mine comes from Middle English quarey, from Old French quarriere “square stone,” from Latin quadrus “square.” Quarry meaning prey comes from Middle English querre, “the entrails of a beast given to the hounds,” from Old French cuiree, from Late Latin corata “viscera,” from Latin cor “heart.”