Volume 29, Number 4

Calumet 2018

One hundred five years after the tragedy
a bleak sadness lingers here.

Christmas Eve 1913, as Santa arrives 
at a union holiday party 
a company agent screams, Fire! 
He bars the door as he exits.

Miners in the fifth month of a strike
had scraped meager funds together
to boost member morale
and bring a little cheer to the kids.

Today, abandoned storefronts abound,
homes with missing siding and broken glass, 
potholed streets in disrepair.
This town reeks of depression.

Hopes for happiness and prosperity,
for victory, vanished in the panic. 
A few months after the tragedy, despondent,
the miners voted to end the strike. Defeated, 
many of the nine thousand strikers 
could not face returning to work,
opted for other jobs in the area,
or moved to mining towns in the west.

Those that do go back have to deal
with their resentment of the four thousand
who kept the mine operating 
by crossing their picket line.

Seventy-three were killed
in the sabotaged holiday party
over a hundred years ago.
Fifty-nine of them were children.

A pall hangs here like smoke from a fire.
Only there was no fire.

—Ed Werstein