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Monday, 4 January 2010

The Man of Ouray


File:Atlas Mill.jpg

Down here among the miniature hotels
Rooming houses saloons feed and grain depots
Diminutive stables with horses so small
Lilliputian persons go about their lives
Beneath the huge repression notched massif
Of the nineteenth century frontier
With its Jamesian sentence suspended
In a chasm of ingenuous disbelief
The woman who comes out to wed the Ouray man
Has been told of the strange peace of mining gold
But as they huddle in the exploding shaft
The man says I build everything like a tower
To get to my dreams, which were carved in these slopes
By striating winds before creation

File:Ouray,CO view.jpg

File:Beaumont Hotel Ouray,CO.jpg

Atlas silver and gold mill and slag pile near Ouray, Colorado, with Stony Mountain at right: photo by Lewis Charles McClure, date unknown, c. 1904-1920
View of Ouray, Colorado: photo by (?) Byers Photo, Montrose, Colorado, date unknown, c. 1900-1920
Beaumont Hotel, Ouray, Colorado (built 1886) with Cascade Falls in background
: photographer unknown, c. 1904-1920 (Denver Public Library)



Wow, this wasn't here when I read "Old Nipper" and now it is! LIke the mining town sprung up in such mountains, as if in an eyeblink. No mountains here, but the now partly sunlit green ridge across whose top a thick blanket of fog is now hanging below pale blue sky. . . .

phaneronoemikon said...

nice one tom!

A Course in Miracles FromOutoftheBlue said...

I was there. Ouray has one of the nicest natural hot springs. Sit in hot spring pool surrounded by snow capped mountains. About an hour from Telluride.

~otto~ said...

I often find myself a little at a loss when it comes to remarking on poetry. I read all these other insightful comments and I feel like the goon at a wine tasting who can't examine the ropes and discuss the oaky and chocolate hints in the glass. (Wine is made of grapes, right?)

But when something hits me, so much of the pleasure comes from not understanding why it is hitting me, and just enjoying the ride. This did that:

I build everything like a tower
To get to my dreams, which were carved in these slopes
By striating winds before creation

phaneronoemikon said...

to only say its some odd shift in register would be to deny the total approach in the first place.

the fact that the poem ends

'before creation'

says alot to me, but it is the initial construction of the lens
the signposts of Lilliputian, and Jamesian, just that, that connection between James, wait,

i now realize that when I read the poem I thought it said

Jameson, part of my friz, was the
cool connote between Swift and Pomo


"history is only accessible to us in narrative form"

But Swift, uh, well,

I think I need to fall back.

It's a damn nice poem Tom!


Anonymous said...

The photos remind me of my town so much (but fortunately without the mines).

The poem is thrilling. It takes me back to a time I might have known if I believed in previous lives.

Full of nostalgia.


I see how much I miss finding something (new vision) from you this morning -- maybe it will 'appear' soon! -- and how something of what I wrote here yesterday stayed with me clear through the day, and reappeared in something I scribbled last night (the word "eyeblink").

Here is something from just now ---


redness of sky on horizon above branches
of trees, white half moon next to branch
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

upon which such description
is based, a reference

corresponding to an instant,
acceleration, changes

blue-white of sky reflected in channel,
sandstone-colored cliff across from it

Marvin K. Mooney said...

You open so many doors and we can now see Colorado!

TC said...

Thanks for swell comments everyone.

"the goon at a wine tasting who can't examine the ropes and discuss the oaky and chocolate hints in the glass. (Wine is made of grapes, right?)"

Otto, I'm with you here. I thought a fine wine was made out of exquisite dismay. But I have always been a bit of a fine whiner. And will always feel more at home around an Okie than in the presence of an oenological hint of oaky, so there we state our common incorrigible declassé roots once again.

"history is only accessible to us in narrative form"

Lanny, I meant to evoke the endlessly elaborated sentences of Henry James as a sort of weird sidelong oblique historical index (or sump'n). Those "innocent" late 19th c. American ingenues in the Old World, endlessly hoodwink'd by cultural grammars they were never going to understand.

the nineteenth century frontier
With its Jamesian sentence suspended
In a chasm of ingenuous disbelief

But I do understand why Otto reads this as the nut of it:

I build everything like a tower
To get to my dreams, which were carved in these slopes
By striating winds before creation

In this poem I wanted to fashion, maybe, a small narrative that would fit the Jamesonian formula you cite. A drama of Extraction; a historical parable of (only slightly exaggerated) relative historical magnitudes. The geological enormity of the two-and-a-half-mile-high natural amphitheatre; the infinitesimal puniness of human vanity, greed and blindness in the restless drive to extract. A small diorama of rapacious intentions. The will to make the unyielding yield; the overweening motive to argue with inarguable walls of stone. All those things, in short, that "made America great."

On the other hand: the simple rough-and-ready factual history: The town of Ouray took its name from a local chief of the Ute people, the nomadic tribe that had occupied the region "from time immemorial" without, of course, ever attempting to gouge financial fortune out of it. White-eyes discovered silver veins in the rocks there in 1875. At the height of the silver boom, thirty mines were active. The profits were sufficient to finance the building of luxury hotels like the Beaumont, which cost $75,000 to build in the mid-'80s and was furnished with top of the line articles specially made by Marshall Fields of Chicago: an architectural amalgam of Queen Anne, Victorian and French Second Empire styles, with that slate Mansard roof which I imagined as my hero's Tower of Dreams.

When the bottom dropped out of the silver market in '93, an enterprising chap named Thomas Walsh -- who had noticed that the first wave of miners were somewhat narrowmindedly (classic "tunnel vision") concentrating on their extraction of low-grade silver while ignoring (actually dumping as trash) high-grade gold deposits -- bought the Camp Bird Mine, began processing gold ore there, and had soon turned it into the second-largest gold mine in Colorado.

Here is a reconstructed view of the look of things inside the mine. It was, reportedly, a pretty dangerous place to work. Lots of explosions. Maybe not the healthiest of environments for living creatures. Whole generations of mules were born and lived their lives in the mine, blind from birth.

I suppose in the years before the arrival of his bride my hero might have spent his recreational hours at Vanoli's Gold Belt Theater.

These mountain men, I once suggested in a poem (writ after an unsuccessful attempt at becoming a mountain man myself -- sour grapes?) were "men of ruthless ego all"... but one is left then inevitably to wonder what of the mountain ladies?

TC said...

Sorry about that: middle-of-night eyeball-death coding error.

Hopefully this time I'll have it right, so that you may actually peek inside the mine. (Or inside the reconstruction anyway.)

And by the by, it occurs to me to comment that the claustrophobia of that view puts me in mind of the opening scenes of "There Will Be Blood." Indeed I suppose my narrative in some ways coincidentally parallels that film's. Albeit -- speaking of overweening intentions and relative magnitudes -- mine is obviously a comparatively Lilliputian canvas...

my4spiral said...

not knowing your age, more than likely I saw Ouray, before you were born. I first saw Ouray in 1951, I was 17. I worked at Beaument Hotel, and a hardrock mine above town. I revisited Ouray in 1961, 1966, 2006, 2007,. I have seen most of the world and Ouray is one of the most beautiful parts of it.All things are possible with patience and tenacity, Daniel Morton

TC said...


I too am an old timer.

Our Colorado times were in the late 1970s.

Lived up in Nederland, then later down in Boulder. Was a reporter, traveled and inspected.

Appreciate the majesty of those ranges.

And very much appreciate your stopping by to testify.

Patience and tenacity, ah yes.