Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, Colorado, 1860

I lived in a shack among a string of shacks
and nights, my cot creaked beneath the weight of men.
Days, I shaved my body to show it harbored
no lice. I scrubbed mud

from the floor, covered my cot in newspaper.
Most left their boots on for the duration. Most
did not speak, though once one whooped like he’d struck gold,
his whiskers scraping

my skin, and once one asked, Could you just touch me,
and when I skimmed the small of his back his whole
body wracked with sobs, a sorrow surfacing
from some deeper place

I did not want to understand. Once, headlines
read the only meat left was dried mackerel
and loads of hard, dark hams only the sharpest
and stoutest heart

could penetrate.
Some nights, eighty came and went.
Some nights, newsprint smudged my back, marked me frail, low
though I was just like those men: I was hungry
and I had to eat.

Jennifer Luebbers was born and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. Currently, she lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she works as a fashion writer/editor for, an independent, online clothing retailer.  In May 2009, she received her undergraduate degree from Denison University. Her poems have previously appeared in The Albion Review and Reconfigurations: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry/ Literature & Culture. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761