The Tipple (Ars Poetica)


The Tipple (Ars Poetica)


Coal Mining Exhibit


Horrell photo, Bond poem, Martell background


David Bond, Beth Martell, Doc Horrell


The Light That Shatters Darkness Exhibit


Special Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale


Special Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale


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Text, JPG photograph




Poetry, photography


Exhibit Window #8


The Tipple (Ars Poetica)

It’s nine degrees and too quiet.
Smoke from a power plant six miles off

hangs like a purple wound,
jagged chase in the soft skin of sky

and it seems the cold has smothered too,
any audible sounds of labor.

Far down the tracks a Mo-Pac engine
throbs in dieseled cadence.

Above on the load-out platform
workers bunch along yellow-painted railing.

I climb the steel treads,
kick through piles of powdery coal dust,

across checkerplated flooring
where rusted boxcars pass below,

hoppers poised to belch dark cataracts,
the shards glistening, gathering as

the burden of mind, culled and channeled
to the headchute’s Blackwall hitch.

Steam rises from metal thermoses.
Men talk among themselves,

their breath like spirit deserting flesh.
I join them at the railing,

look down to see a dead man
at the bottom of car number fifty-three,

chest-high snow like a blanket,
a stubborn barnacle the paramedics

later break loose with a washdown hose.
“Second one this year,” the superintendent says,

dribbling tobacco juice into a styrofoam cup.
“Now get your asses back to work.”

Original Format

Photograph of a coal mine preparation plant (tipple), background smoke


The Light That Shatters Darkness #3a.jpg
The Light That Shatters Darkness #3b.jpg


David Bond, Beth Martell, Doc Horrell, “The Tipple (Ars Poetica),” SCRC Virtual Museum at Southern Illinois University's Morris Library, accessed December 3, 2022,


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