Listening for Bridge Builders

On the 75th anniversary of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge

They drowned in anchorage walls and came to rest
Below the cables where their footing slipped.
You can’t imagine how their bodies flipped
Into the sand-hog molds, how concrete pressed
Against their frantic limbs, how motions froze,
How prayers exhausted lungs of final breath.

Now engineers can plumb the depths of death.
A hammer echoes back each worker’s pose,
Surfacing sounds like those that haunt a drum,
Like cofferdams that raised the immigrants
Who worked the riverbed. Their recompense
For what they made is what they have become:
Works in the stone you cannot exhume.
So listen as you cross: this is their tomb.

:: David Livewell, in Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania

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