Her father said she should think of the goddess in her purest form, that being the Greek, the Roman just a copy, and often poor. But the mine was called Minerva, so he couldn’t argue this time. The girl went down the deep shaft in her mind, past the drifts men followed into the hill called Lead, for galena then, fluorspar placed to the side, past the wide rooms of other mines, random pillars so as to leave as little possible ore behind, deeper, to a bed, a belt, measured in miles. She remembered when there was nothing her father couldn’t explain. This mine was sunk in the second world war, fluorspar already known by then as flux, what lowers the temperature at which the raw materials melt in making steel. In this part of the state, fluorspar was easy to find: in relation to fractures, parallel; in host rock, limestone, dark purple replacement beds; in relation to named formations that kept it from ascending: Bethel, which means sanctuary, and Aux Vases, French for swamps, first called Rosiclare, for a town named for two sisters long gone.
She couldn’t see the boundaries even when her father pointed at the stone. The ore was crushed and milled at the surface, the slurry dumped in streams until they thought better and made ponds. Gravity drew the water out, leaving tailings in the piles. Even after the mine shut down, state mineral no longer mined in the state anymore, the water ran to the Saline, which means salt, and to the Ohio, great river, little danger, the agency said, so few towns, and even those were small. Her father had studied Greek, and she Latin. Her mother showed vague interest in the stones. Calcite took the shape of a crown, barite a woman’s form born fully armed. Fluorspar had crystal twinning on its face, two moons, the gorgoneion, a face against the evil eye on the floor by the door, the aegis what the goddess wore when in her angry mood. What power she had, to turn anyone to stone. If she found anything besides empty shotgun shells, the girl knew fluorspar from the rest: it could be scratched with a broken pane of glass or the knife her father always had on hand. Fluorspar had perfect cleavage. Get to the bottom of this: the rooms are flooding; fluorite glows when you aren’t looking; Minerva, she who measures, is from another language still.
-- Angie Macri is the author of Underwater Panther (Southeast Missouri State University), winner of the Cowles Poetry Book Prize, and Sunset Cue (Bordighera), winner of the Lauria/Frasca Poetry Prize. An Arkansas Arts Council fellow, she lives in Hot Springs.