Temporary Work Stoppage


Temporary Work Stoppage


Coal Mining Exhibit


Bond poem, Horrell photograph, 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 photographs




Poetry, photography


Exhibit Window #9


Temporary Work Stoppage

That’s the phrase the company kept insisting we use,
as if that euphemism would change what it was,
and for five months I crossed the picket line
past camouflaged men who called me scab,
dodging scattered jackrocks
on the road to the coal preparation plant
where I’d work each day
at the jobs they’d deserted.

Some picketed because they had to,
to get the weekly strike fund checks,
because their unioned brotherhood required it,
and mostly they were silent, almost embarrassed,
as they sat in lawnchairs
or kept inside the small sheds they’d hauled in,
positioned like instruments of siege
beside the company gates.

Others swore and spat and threatened.
Sometimes they brought wives
from whose mouths came words
you wouldn’t hear on the evening news.
Sometimes children held signs
they couldn’t read.


Every day it affected me a little more;
not fear, not really,
but a physical aching of the heart.

There is something you can’t articulate,
can’t place on exhibit
like the welded steel spikes
at home on my desk,
or the dozen bullet-holes
in the sheetmetal warehouse.

Something in the way they cursed,
in the eye dark with what might have been hate,
in the way the strike was only a metaphor,

in the way you knew
that shortly they’d be back,
working beside you again.

Original Format

Photographs of jackrocks and striking miners


The Light That Shatters Darkness #11.jpg


David Bond, Beth Martell, Doc Horrell, “Temporary Work Stoppage,” SCRC Virtual Museum at Southern Illinois University's Morris Library, accessed August 11, 2022, https://scrcexhibits.omeka.net/items/show/56.


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