De Re Metallica


De Re Metallica


Coal Mining Exhibit


Bond poem, Horrell photo, 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 #11

Original Format

Photograph of miner's worn, discarded leather glove


De Re Metallica

I remember listening that night
to the talk of mining accidents only
in driblets of sentences like the rain
depending from each scored hard hat
which was the reason they'd gathered
just inside the tin-roofed warehouse
before a wire screen separating
them from me, union from company,

hearing only half of what was said
above the tattoo of falling water, the f-word
exploiting every possible part of speech
as I fetched each one his or her particular
supply or tool or repair component--
tape measure, shop towel, ball joint--
it didn't matter, the company had
plenty of money and didn't care who

got exactly what so long as they kept
working seven-day shifts, and anyway
I was thinking of this girl I'd met while
taking classes at SIU, a chemistry major
actually, writing her master's thesis on
shellac, its origin and applications, a
practical girl for sure, intelligent and
at the same time pneumatic, callipygian,

which is a word I've yearned to use in
a poem for some time, a word I dared not
speak in a world where limericks were
high art yet poetry blinked back from darkness
and we all felt it, nudge of memory slippery
as gear grease, so I was trying real hard to
compose a verse that might appeal to such
a young lady, and I guess I just didn't

give it much thought at the time, being
busy gathering up supplies and deciding
how best to compare the glazed beauty
of a mound of discarded coal in the rain
to a woman's eyes, but now I recall quite
clearly an elderly miner's story of his
best friend's decapitation by means of the
sudden explosion of a 7200 volt electrical

line and its subsequent whipping about,
the way white rockdust churned,
cabletracks spitting into the blind walls,
the smell of lightning and melted rubber,
a prayer for God's ruthless compassion.


The Light That Shatters Darkness #8.jpg


David Bond, Beth Martell, Doc Horrell, “De Re Metallica,” SCRC Virtual Museum at Southern Illinois University's Morris Library, accessed May 22, 2024,