Rend Lake At Sunset


Rend Lake At Sunset


Coal Mining Exhibit


Bond poem, Martell background


David Bond, Beth Martell


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 for background




Poetry, photography


Exhibit Window #10

Original Format

Background photograph of water, hill, moon, clouds


Rend Lake At Sunset

Sloe water reaches for a rope of lit land
flung far across the artificial oxbow of lake.
It feels so good to pull the oaken oar’s
smooth helve back, relax, feather the blade flat,

lean forward, suck in cool air, pull again.
Distant, hills of scoured coal smolder
and the smoke rises, drifts, hovers
like a genitive spirit against the sky’s

last sad skein of light, sky that roils
as a bisque of blood and fire, confronts me
with the hopelessness of ever finding
a manageable vocabulary for beauty.

For years I worked with men who mined
dark drifts, who stumbled down the sloping
half-mile mouth each long night shift
into rib-ripped channels of ancient rivers

and the bittersweet taste of decay, strange
mellifluence that lingers this evening
in the smoke as a souvenir, an autism
bordering myth. I’m caught, as usual,

within this acrid smell, within soft riddles
of lines now barely visible on the water’s
dusky face, lines cast from a latticework
of curved steel beams and conveyor belt

rollercoasting the lakeshore; a castle of prep plant
with its concrete twin towers and lancet windows;
the cankered stonehenge of deep-cut machinery
bounding a parenthetical tin warehouse where

I inventoried screwdrivers, electric motors, my life.
All this as the passage of a familiar song
you hear unexpectedly: song of profanity and redundant
chokedamp coughs, song of tobacco and wildcat strikes,

song of shoulders sagging like the indulgent streets above,
song of grasses, song of graves, song of wounds
bound in the black raspings of this indifferent world,
song of absurdity, song of the sanctified,

of the way Dale Carnes, when the roof collapsed,
caressed his friend’s dead face like a lover
until the ambulance came. It feels so good
to pull the oaken oar’s smooth helve back, again,

to gulp down lungfuls of landscape before
I begin drifting off among the triple rhythm
of coalheaps growing closer and closer,
livid pyramids that rise, fall, rise again,

arsis and thesis, sweet shards of memory
that lead me, lemming-like, to a continent
no longer there. I swear, in this earthy,
polluted breeze, on this June evening,

I can almost forget the tragedy of bodies,
almost sleep in the fire far beneath
these tight belts of carbon, almost drown
in the slivered moon dancing lightly

on this blessing of smooth waters.


The Light That Shatters Darkness #7.jpg


David Bond, Beth Martell, “Rend Lake At Sunset,” SCRC Virtual Museum at Southern Illinois University's Morris Library, accessed April 12, 2024,