A Poem for the Laborers

"Pioneers, First Women in Construction"
by Susan Eisenberg

Her sister was shot, and hers found bludgeoned
dead in her car trunk; her mother was alcoholic,
and hers a suicide; her daughter killed by an uncle,
and hers stayed alive thanks to prison.
Before the term, date-raped, she was. Before
domestic violence, love punched her face.

We wanted the career. Not just skills and money,
but structure, focus, printed plans, the rowdy order
of raising buildings that years later would still stand
right where you left them. We joined a tradition,
expected a well-marked path and a welcome.
The earnest ads never mentioned

we’d be human minesweepers steering around
barricades, sinkholes, lethal instructions, We learned
Solidarity was a corporation privately held.
Some left in shock. Some were maimed.
Some went missing. A few found gold.

Those with talent for sifting real threat from bluff,
or detecting hair-triggers before the blast, fared best,
We taught ourselves to disarm booby traps, shared
hand-drawn maps, and prepared for a long winter.
We lied on postcards home.