Susan Eisenberg

poet, visual artist, and oral historian who works within and across genres


Pioneers, First Women in Construction


Her sister was shot, and hers found bludgeoned dead in her car trunk; her mother was alcoholic, and hers a suicide; her daughter killed by an uncle, and hers stayed alive thanks to prison. Before the term, date-raped, she was. Before domestic violence, love punched her face.

We wanted the career. Not just skills and money, but structure, focus, printed plans, the rowdy order of raising buildings that years later would still stand right where you left them. We joined a tradition, expected a well-marked path and a welcome. The earnest ads never mentioned

we’d be human minesweepers steering around barricades, sinkholes, lethal instructions. We learned Solidarity was a corporation privately held. Some left in shock. Some were maimed. Some went missing. A few found gold.

Those with talent for sifting real threat from bluff, or detecting hair- triggers before the blast, fared best, We taught ourselves to disarm booby traps, shared hand-drawn maps, and prepared for a long winter. We lied on postcards home.


“Pioneers, First Women in Construction” from Stanley’s Girl: Poems by Susan Eisenberg. Copyright © 2018 by Susan Eisenberg. Used by permission of the publisher, Cornell University Press.