Source: pinterest. Hilla and Bernd Becher, Zeche Neu-Iserlohn, Bochum Werne, 1963.

The Pit

The brine made black look more puddling and puddling, a moist scent floated above it, pitch was the second layer, the third, the fourth, fifth and sixth layers of rot which lay in this well’s seemingly endless cavity. Like a dentist drilling in a sore tooth, they entered the grotto with pick axes and shovels, drills on air, digging deeper and deeper. There was no mercy for the patient now. All had to be dug out.

Wheels of the winding towers shunned out loads, cart after cart, vertical automation, a jacob ladder’s infinity, until the horn for a next shift blew. Men loaded up in cages, they fell down into the abyss, old shifts stepped outside, leveled up to the surface by their weight in gold, steel, iron and concrete. Their faces unrecognizable, thick layers of dust covered their skins, a cast of black silt laid up to their eyes, which seemed the only place where the grey film pertaining to black hadn’t set foot. The eyes teared, torn by the sweat and tar of their ropes, their clothes rags. Time for a quick smoke. Their lungs hadn’t seen enough tar yet. The coughing, some coughed all the time. It was their illness, the thing that had bonded them even tighter together, the loss of comrades due to their work. Of course they remembered those that had fallen on the accidents of the last decades, they striked and protested, demanded stricter safety regulations on the job. More vent shafts, more access ways to rescue crews when sections fell apart. It was done, it didn’t save the lives of those who got ill.

That was their silent enemy, they felt they had to fight the World. The World of being eaten by dust, alive.

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