After the blast at the Spring Hill Mine, walls closed down,

a colliery collapsed, blocking stulls shuddered splitting

strata of sandstone and shale. The rattle of the belt and clatter

of the cutter blade was no longer heard.

In the chasm of a mine shaft a dozen miners got a glimpse

of the gaping maw of an alternate world, a simulacrum

of being dead. Imploding pillars of fissured rock imprisoned

the men in a three foot seam two miles down a pit shaft

with six hundred feet of bedrock and slag above their heads.

In pitch-black darkness a blizzard of bituminous coal whirled

around their faces. They sat in a semi-circle on quivering

ground, jolted continuously by the crack and crumble

of metaphoric rock. They sang hymns, trembling as they sang.

Waiting in exiguous tomb-like breathing space with no food

and little water they rationed liquid to one sip a man.

They tried quenching thirst by sucking on coal and scaffolding

of Douglas-fir before drinking their own urine until it turned

sour. Five days later they heard the drilling of the Draeger

teams from Cape Breton Isle.

Rescued, the mine owners offered no apology or any compensation.

Nothing, nothing, nothing!

Crushed bones and rivers of blood, the price of coal.

Milton P. Ehrlich