NINETEENTH-CENTURY RURAL ROAD-BUILDERS
They built roads we still use
to move people we now judge
and things we’ve replaced
with other, similar things.
They pulled muscles we’ve forgotten
and worked hours we’ve outlawed
for bosses we can recognise.
They told the same necessary lies.
They had more interesting curses than ‘fuck’.
They loved the views that they made for the future,
for the people who were lucky enough
to be born after them.
We imagine them not complaining,
but they complained.
We imagine them working in the sun
and working harder when it was raining,
sparing our feelings
with their sepia stoicism,
preserving their bad smiles on glass plates
in the drawers of collections.
They built themselves
and they built us
and they built a time
and an idea of time.
They stuck charges in rock faces,
braced, and put their fingers in their ears,
where our fingers are, too,
after all these years.
ERIK KENNEDY is the author of There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018), and he selected the poetry for Queen Mob’s Teahouse: Teh Book (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2019). His poetry and criticism have recently been published in places like Hobart, The Moth, Poetry, Spoon River Poetry Review, the TLS, and Western Humanities Review. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.