He lunged for the shut-off switch when he heard the scream.
But the brutal five-inch teeth on the rotating drum,
designed to excavate the coal face, had already destroyed
helmet and hair, scalp and brain. Its rotation
diminishing now, the carbide-tipped cutter bits
dripping with the miner's mistake. The noise declining
as the massive drum, about six feet long, rolled
to a stop and fell silent. The machine's remaining motors
droning dirges now. This coal seam had a name,
the coal mine, too, and even the continuous miner,
run by remote controls hung from the neck,
was identified with engraved letters on its scarred metal skin.
But this other name they knew they'd never say again
as casually as they'd done only moments before.
No one wanted to aim his headlamp there.
No one wanted to speak his name out loud.
He shouldn't have been there. It shouldn't have happened.
The rest of the section turned as one to the foreman
who approached the shadowed cavity deep in the coal face,
bowing his head to bring his light to the edge
slowly, the beam casting severe shadows
on the black ridges of coal, alien as rocks
lit by stark sunlight on the surface of the moon,
seen from the window of a passing capsule.
A very strong piece of writing, full of the right words and of felicities like "The machine's other motors/droning dirges now." What the foreman's headlamp sees is very vivid.
--- Richard Wilbur