Art that opens conversation...

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from Pioneering: Poems from the Construction Site (1998)

Following the Blueprints

To the open possibility

of steel against sky

we weld, bolt and strap

wide staircases of marble, arched

skylights, commanding views

serviced by windowless corridors

where ceilings hang low, as though

the ones who will push carts and carry trays

are unusually small or,

prefer to scurry like mice

in closed dark spaces

or, as though

extra headroom might give them



           for the tradeswomen of '78

She had walked into their party uninvited

wedging a welcome mat in the doorway

for other women she hoped would

follow along soon.

                             The loud ones argued

to throw her out immediately. Even her supporters

found her audacity annoying. But once they saw

she mingled with everyone

drank American beer

kept conversations going during awkward silences

and was backed up by law

the controversy


She surprised them.

She was reliable. She always gave her best.

She was invited back.

She became a regular ––      

             always on the fringe

             expected to help out

                                              just a little more.

When she stopped coming

they were confused. Why now? Hadn't she

challenged custom? stared down rumors? ingratiated herself

years ago? so that now her presence was only

mildly discomforting. She never explained.

After all those years hurling back cannonballs

womanizing the barricades firing

only if she saw the whites of their eyes

it was the lonesomeness

                                        of pioneering

that broke her resistance.

All those silences

                   about what mattered

                   most in her life

had worn her

like the slow eating away of acid on metal:

the damage only visible over time.

Selected Poetry


All poems copyright Susan Eisenberg.

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