Bo-Peep Tunnel

by David Phillips
criticalpoet.org
Honorable Mention, March 2008
Judged by Fleda Brown


Coarse roughneck navigators built Bo-Peep
to run the railway through to Hastings, west,
with sculptured portals hewn from sheep-specked hills.

Men gave their lives to progress through the chalk
but who can trust the glistening steam-blacked bricks
to celebrate the Irish hands who clamped
the rails to sleepers, oil-light springing shadows
over tunnel walls like Disney thieves?

And who can name the pair of Wicklow men
who bricked the tunnel wall one afternoon
and died that evening in a pointless brawl,
the Railway paying for their pauper graves?

No man is marked in any book, no worker
is remembered, but the collective noun,
a gang of navvies, lives in common tongue–
and a hill in Sussex honours men
who made a tunnel with a pretty name.



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