Mineral Tracks

By Annie Gilliland

Photo by Mark Cunningham

Drift out

in the purple twilight

with a flashlight that matches the sky.

Find the veins that streak

silver and white through sediment,

that wash through limestone of eras

when this dry world was unfathomably fluid.

Illuminate these intrusions

in the dust of such arid, dark night

and watch the glow of colors light

your way through the depths of murky wilds.

Sparkling calcite animates into excited vitality -

and abiotics come to life

and this quiet desert blooms

and air and rocks and dirt and decay

burst like fluorescent flowers in spring,

like beds of coral and algae beckoning to the sun.

These fluorescing, rainbow intrusions unfurl like petals.

Observe the phosphorescent

staying power of this place.

When the world around you opens

and shouts at you its bright secrets

twinkling between wavy blades of grass

glinting off twin invertebrate eyes in the scrub.

Something howls in sync with the unsubtle hues.

Now all of this feels

like stars a million light years away,

like foxfire in a swamp you’ve never seen,

like plankton alight in a sea of stoic agave,

or fireflies swarming a blaze through a forest.

So you’ve sunk into the deep of open wonder and questions

Because there is nothing to hide when even the rocks pour out such


Annie Gilliland has been teaching the public about night skies in various national parks for a few years now. As a graduate of the University of Utah’s Environmental Humanities Master’s program, she focused her poetry, prose, and essay writing on issues surrounding light pollution and conservation. Her writing has appeared in Until the Stars Burn Out, Saltfront, Yellowstone: Color it Wild, and in the Astronomers Without Borders astropoetry blog.