They stop being picturesque
after a time – row after row,
waist-high, the color of the weather
off the North Atlantic
as far as you can see.
How many hours, centuries
blur down to this?
How many crushed fingers, toes,
lives? How much to lift, then place
so precisely, to follow patterns
that only make sense from 500 feet
looking down amazed?
This wasn’t hot work,
sweat would freeze out here
even on the best of days.
Without trees there’s no real shelter
until the wall is finished
and you lie down for once
out of the wind.
A restless peace, resting on the stones
you’ll pile next, start up from the ground
one on top of another, on top of another.
What did they eat? What did they drink
So little soil to grow in, little sun,
so much work, so much work.
You’d pray to die after a time –
wet through, bone tired, bored,
stone on stone.
Who did they pray to, doing this?
J. K. Durick is a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Black Mirror, Third Wednesday, Thrush Poetry Journal, and Ink, Sweat, and Tears.