There is a Rumor That During Construction of one of Portland’s Prominent Thoroughfares in the 1850s, Some Workers Died in a Freak Accident and the Road was Built Atop Their Bodies

by Mike Bove

The men buried beneath Commercial Street
are hardly resting.  They died where they worked,
stayed where they fell, and rolled only ever so slightly
when the trucks came with fill, train rail, and thousands
of blocks of cobble.  So tightly packed underneath
they can’t even call to one another
with the windy translucence of the other side.
Some nights when the rain falls they get the itch
to do some real work again, unaware
that the road’s long finished, graduated
from horse-drawn carriage to ornate town car to
hipster-driven rickshaw.  Progress on the streets stays
on the surface, but some nights I lie awake
and think about these men, imagine them
sitting up to wipe their eyes and climb, glowing,
out of the muck to stalk the street they almost built,
weaving in and out of hotels, tracking cabs, or pausing
at a shimmering storefront to gape at a souvenir snowglobe.