Trespass Vision, by David Bond

Technological improvements have improved mine safety in some ways, but coal miners continue to face risks. William “Doc” Horrell documented the realities of Southern Illinois coal mining in photographs. One shows an aged miner with a hook for a hand. The image inspired a compassionate poem by David Bond, who worked for a mining company that closed during the 1990s.

Miner with artificial hand
Miner with an artificial hand, photographed by William "Doc" Horrell, from the Special Collections Research Center

Trespass Vision

by David Bond
After a photo by  C. William “Doc” Horrell

A camelbacked miner sits
on the drift of coal chips

beside a yawning mine mouth.
His left hand grips a self-rolled

cigarette; the right is not a hand
at all, but a split hook of stainless

steel flaring from the greasy sleeve
as a beautiful avatar of loss.

The black tongue of corded
beltline skreels its carbon-edged

chorus of lives distilled to
a single piece of rock.

Why do we search so hard for
an illusion, the unnecessary metaphor,

when this lesser god who coughs
awkwardly into a piece of fused metal,

sips warm coffee from a tired Stanley
thermos, its handle re-forged

from tie wire and hose clamps,
tells the truth we were waiting to hear?