Alex Potter
The Mines of Potosi, Bolivia


You chew green leaves
Sucking out liquid sunshine from their veins
In the darkest depths of the earth
Where light and air
Are like the silver you scratch and pull from the
Red Mountain

Leaves that are your staff of life
Staving off hunger
10, 14 hours of hard labor without a bite of the light bread rounds your women bake

Leaves that oil your grinding, crouched joints
Gasoline to pump flesh pistons
Saliva extracting and mixing that precious coca blend
That drives your hammers into stone
That packs explosives into mountain orifices

The mines you crawl
The same ones built by your Spanish conquerors
Carved out by your ancestors under whips
When the toxic dusts you breathe with every descent into hell
Were mixed with the metallic stench of gunpowder
And your iron-rich blood mixed with the iron-red of the mountain you pummel
That was richer than you to the world's insatiable desires
You still crawl in their graves... your graves

The Tio hunts you
So you offer your precious little wealth of
Cigarettes, liquor, and bitter leaves
Hoping his falling stones will miss you
Praying that his dusty kisses of death will not take you too soon
Struggling to take more breaths under the sun
Than under the earth

You are generous with the few things you have
Always giving twice
Two drinks of pure ethanol
Two healthy fists of coca
For guests
For friends
For Pachamama

I'm the bearer of bad news
The world does not know you, miner
You labor and die
Anonymous to us

While we profit from the products of your sweat
While we reap the harvest of
Your great grandfather's bones that vault these shafts
You stand over vats of cyanide burning the dirt away from our wealth