Harp & Altar
Jason Michael Bacasa
from There Was Electricity

Lynn Crawford

Elise Harris

Norman Lock
from Pieces for Small Orchestra

Eugene Marten

Miranda Mellis

Miranda Mellis

This work-in-progress synthesizes language derived from two disparate American archives: the case files of Dr. E. M. Libby, a rural doctor of north Michigan miners and loggers circa 1900–1934, and life as a child in a Marxist-Leninist collective circa 1970s–1980s. This archive is flagrantly subjective. Other intertexts are derived from authors William Cronon and Lewis C. Reimann (see endnote). Each case is volumetric (sound and dimension) imbricating the bruised shine of fateful accidents, heists gone awry, smoke-soaked discourse, auto-cry-tique, and “enormous changes at the last minute” characteristic of bodily and earthly life’s world-historical trauma. (All trauma is world-historical.) The “cases” register regimes of treatment—medical, industrial and ideological. If there is any recuperation in this operation, it is of the bald noise of expression.




No. 1998


Working in the shaft at Rogers Mine, patient fell thirty feet and landed on a timber placed across shaft.


Brought to surface acre, a monument bodily. Dissuade him. Do not ring. Fearing mental hills, mineral fires, ground waters for the entirety of called life. To incur before she died mother did lament “they are burning.” The cradle is burning of civilization. This . . . memoir, enemy pleasure. They demand that you read Marx “correctly.” Why don’t you? You small thin tongue civility, the doctor where needed used a chisel. Oh comrade you know how to use the hammer. Of fascia sometimes upon the flesh and bone of a miner or a logger. Oh comrade why isn’t it all as written? Oh redemptive mark-maker Marx. Why hast thou insufficiently. End it doctor will operate constantly. The insane philosopher will diagnose. Crest of the people who are getting hurt oh mother. Pelvis oh patient, there is nothing to worry about don’t touch me there. Pain, it is sad. You are depressed but don’t turn it into suffering comrade you are you and words are only. Don’t suffer me so your goodness, so like malice. Your authority, so.




No. 1710


“Drifts” are tunnels drilled and dug out from the shaft to the main body of ore. At the end of these drifts were great rooms from which the ore had been blasted and hauled to the “skip,” or elevator cage, and hoisted to the surface.


Working in drift in Osana Mine, he was caught between sidewall of drift and passing tramcar.


Tried to get there in time too late disaster. How to get. Outer aspect of hips and thighs shoot spun yourself shit. Of ilia to whomever, this home even, neutral push push. Patient complains of pain and lies down. Severe pain: much has been said about subject and object and region, locale, local anesthetic, locale anamorphosis, local aesthetic. Morphine I will not add, but make removals. Small, cigarette drain in low angle, its wound-made revenge pattern home spun. xo, comrade.




No. 1952


Commodities were produced by human beings facing each other in the tumultuous relationship whose name was market: farmers and grain traders, cowboys and cattle barons, lumberjacks and lumbermen, miners and managers all struggling over who would control the product of their collective work.


Shoveling ore in stope at Chicagoan Mine, a large mass of ore fell striking patient and knocking him down.


Who would control their collective? Misreadings, posters of death, ideology, coinage. Shame produced by human beings misrecognizing each other in the tumult whose name. Don’t drive through blame town without visiting authority. Necrotic tissue of doubtful vitality. The children laugh they screwed, drilled and screw. Cast with windows to permit inspection no one is watching. Will return to work as a miner. Will return to anger.




No. 1830


They fastened lighted candles or carbide lamps to their waterproof miner’s hats.


Working in shaft of Osana Mine, a piece of rock, falling down shaft, struck patient on head.


“I have no pictures from that time; my life was erased.” Angles of laceration. Force of semi-conscious iterations, repetitions. Elevate, insinuate, make a gesture ascetic mistaken under the edge of a fragment the fragment raised, seized with forceps pain vs. concept. Who is under the bed? Dura lacerated. Closed with fine catgut. Bone fragment trimmed to firm seating replaced in bony defect of skull. Silkworm gut. Dressings retained by firmly applied cap. Convulsions resume hard labor. Return to iron for visit, procure money to see the doctor, strikes would not be allowed to stop production, diseases are a kind of strike, too. The mother laborer, whose, patient abed, whose body refuses to work, to work properly on behalf of the collective. Who will not, will not stop for that? Nor would the mines stop, stop for that. Stutter, strike, scatter, stutter. How can you hold a limit responsible: a limit cannot go beyond.




No. 1633


Hand drilling was the method used for boring holes into the ore or the rock overlaying the ore. One held the steel drill while the other struck the drill with a sledgehammer, the drill being turned after each blow. At the end of the day miners placed sticks of dynamite into the holes with fuse and dynamite caps attached. When all the holes were “charged” word was shouted to all men in the mine to clear out. At a set time all the fuses were lighted and the miners ran out to the shaft. Each man carefully checked to see that his partner was with him and in a safe position. Great explosions sounded throughout the mine, echoed and reverberated and rumbled to the surface until they could be heard for a mile or more around. Many were maimed or killed each year. Mining laws to protect the men were few and seldom enforced. “Get out the ore, damn you. Never mind the risks.”


Believing it to be a missed shot, patient picked up stick of dynamite that had been fused and lit, which exploded in his hand at Dober Mine.


Severe shattering. Loss of distal, loss of entire. Numerous small pieces. “The alterity of the detail, in the excess of the part retained as a part,” and embedded or remaining fingers, data marked with asterisks, report made to Oliver Iron Mining Company.



The italicized sections that appear below the case numbers are drawn directly from—or paraphrase—one of two source texts: Chapter 3, “The Iron,” from Between the Iron and the Pine (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edwards Brothers, 1951), a biographical account of pioneer life in the mining and timber town of Iron River, Michigan, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, by Lewis C. Reimann; and Chapter 4, “The Wealth of Nature: Lumber,” from Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: Norton, 1991), by William Cronon. The case studies prefaced by lines from Reimann are No. 1710 and No. 1830; the remaining italicized passages are drawn from Cronon.