Coal Mining Exhibit


Bond poem, Horrell photo


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 #4


I watch them step into the sun
when first light strikes the dark faces
and they pause, blink, bib overalls coated with labor,
metal lunch pails shingled with stickers and myth.

I want to look at the eyes, shining like dollars of streaked gold,
the eyes of the father and the father’s father,
exhausted eyes of twelve year-old boys stationed between mules.

I need to strip romance down to an ebony cough,
a limestone room falling in slow motion,
a never-ending high sulfur flow like a rush of black blood.

At 2 AM under fluorescence I’m reading John Keats
as my computer blinks an iambic refrain
and I’m thinking of the honeycombed earth

where the beauty of a ninety degree crosscut
and the truth of an articulating crawler are all that really matter.
I’m listening in vain for a voice rising above the rumble,

that constant pirouetting of worn rollers,
the occasional clank of a metal splice gone bad,
a dusty metaphor in a language I almost remember.

But when I plumb the deep-set eyes
and stand three hundred feet below
in a heavy darkness I can taste like marsh ferns and carbide,

tethered to strands of crusted cobalt,
waiting for the spiked wheelworks to splice through,
I see those blue flames of need-fire burst from pitch;
stone-deaf, I hear that voice, forging words hard as coal.

Original Format

Photography of miners leaving work


The Light That Shatters Darkness #4.jpg


David Bond, Beth Martell, Doc Horrell, “Coal,” SCRC Virtual Museum at Southern Illinois University's Morris Library, accessed December 3, 2022,


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