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


Use Restrictions: To quote in print, or otherwise reproduce in whole or in part in any publication, including on the World Wide Web, any material from this collection, the researcher must obtain permission from (1) the owner of the physical property and (2) the holder of the copyright. Persons wishing to quote from this collection should consult Special Collections Research Center to determine copyright holders for information in this collection. Reproduction of any item must contain the complete citation to the original.


Text, JPG photograph




Poetry, photography


Exhibit Window #5

Original Format

Photograph of one-armed coal miner



Men perch on ripped 2 X 12’s minutes before
shift change at the mouth of a mine
alternately cursed and praised
for the blight of blemished lungs,
the tons of coal torn, loaded,
lifted from night to day, night to night,
the wild passage steel rollers sing,

systolic, regular as the inspiration
of wedded cigarettes, the slaver of Kodiak
between a chokedamp dialect,
crosscurrents of stale air and slow-burning slag,
the soundings each takes with each,
an allegory of lightless drudgery
limned each twelve hour trick.

And as they enter a metal framework
called the cage, hunched against the cold updraft,
as the greasy cable eases down,
the giant motor catches its breath,
ground rises and the latticework
of riveted steel scales past,
I think of my friend Lewis, descending.

Is there not a sort of nobility
in his scarred hands and broken nails,
in the fact that he can barely read the dirty
list of duties a foreman hands him
as formality? Is there not romance
in the sifting coal dust itself, masking
faces to burnt simulacrums by day’s end?

I imagine a place deep within the marrow of planet
where men and nature merge, laborers huddle
in the darkness of chambered sumps around
some warm transformer like the hermits of “Tintern Abbey,”
where life is distilled to a clarity of presence.
But then, as the brake dogs screech and
wire rope slackens, I see the rejected mountain

of pestled slack, the barren open cuts, sick orange
run-off to a lake of acidic waste. I think of
the fact that hermits were often hired by the rich
in Wordsworth’s time to live in caves. I think
of false nature, the deception of form, my own foolishness.


The Light That Shatters Darkness #12a.jpg
The Light That Shatters Darkness #12b.jpg


David Bond, Beth Martell, Doc Horrell, “Conceit,” SCRC Virtual Museum at Southern Illinois University's Morris Library, accessed April 12, 2024,