Burnt Barite

Some years ago, I found an unknown spot
in the Rambla de las Colmenas.
High above old mines were slag heaps full
of barite, black and white and crystalline,
clean as the day they smashed it from the rocks.
No telltale signs collectors had been there.
No screwed-up newspaper or broken tools.

When I went back a hillside fire had wrecked
the minerals that I expected there.
Crystals grew fragile in the heat and cracked.
The clean white surfaces were all dark grey.
Charcoal pine branches snapped as I walked by.

Nothing is guaranteed. Go back at once.
Take what is there, while it’s still there.
The past revisited is not the same.

Fiona Pitt-Kethley has published books of prose or poetry with Chatto & Windus, Abacus, Salt and others. She is also a freelance journalist and copywriter and has written for The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, The Telegraph, and London Review of Books and other publications. She lives with her family in Spain, in Cartagena on the edges of the Sierra Minera. One of her hobbies is collecting minerals and visiting old mines in this area.

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