Who dug the ditches?

Under the scruffy hawthorn –
Dog-eared and tatty,
Dog-sniffed yet brooding –
The ditch runs;
Only a whip of thorns
Protecting it from wandering eyes.
The ditch;
A man-made beck
That beckons to nothing
But flash-flood over-spill
And tsunami waves
From lorry tyres
Smashing and thrashing
Their pyrrhic victories
Against road-edge puddles.

Yet they are there.

These ditches.
These long lines of art
Where man and nature
Worked together;
A partnership,
For once,
That worked for both.

Were they made for the roads?
Steel armed navvies,
Armies of shovels
Digging in unison.
The last spike in
Finishing the turnpike?

Were they made for the fields?
Farmhands and hired hands,
Sludge-trudging;
Stopping root rot
Or building a floss
To turn the stone of the mill?

Each was made
With salt-soaked brow,
And blistering toil;
With nicked-fingers,
And aching backs
With rough handled hoes
And hand-me-down trenching spades
Under warm July skies
Zipping with insects,
Skies now painted in sepia –
But were bright and true.

Who dug the ditches?
Their faces, lost to us;
But their work,
Their art – of
These unsung rivers –
Is their story, living still.

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