Sounds of Reconstruction

They’re pounding out the broken sewer line beneath the street
at the intersection of major roads by our house, day and night
men and women move earth, drill new wells to control groundwater,
lay pipe, footings the size of shattered memories to bypass
the damaged places.

We’re a country piecing ourselves together. Still, today, when Nancy
made it through surgery, half a lung gone, but breathing, and already
wanting to go home, when the phone rang with the good news
we jumped up and down for the technology that can restore,
for the lights that shine all night at the construction

site, the lights inside the rooms we operate in, for the men and women
who choose to learn this stuff, get dirty in it, for the clang and beep of
machines, for oxygen tubing, and tank holders, for the chance to breathe
deeply again, wade in a symphony of laughter, and there–listen to it–
amid the drone of boring and excavation, a wind chime.

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Joy Gaines-Friedler is the author of three books of poetry. She teaches for nonprofits including Freedom House Detroit, where she teaches poetry to asylum-seekers from western and northern Africa. Besides teaching workshops for “at risk” communities, she teaches private workshops in memoir, poetry and fiction. Published in more than eighty literary magazines, she is a multiple Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Ashland University, OH.

About the Poem

“As a child in and out of the hospital from ages five to twelve, I heard the sounds of health care–those that frightened me, those that reassured. I remember the lighting, the opening and closing of cabinets, the voices in the nurses’ center. This poem’s central metaphor celebrates the ‘technology that can restore’–including the healthcare workers.”


4 thoughts on “Sounds of Reconstruction”

  1. Spectacular poem! I am a healthcare worker, “essential staff.” Thank you for this! It perfectly expresses the relief we are beginning to feel as more and more vaccines are given, and the death rates lower.
    “-listen to it- … a wind chime!” Thank you for articulating such feelings of gratitude!

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Call for Entries​

Pulse Writing Contest​​

"On Being Different"