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To Build a Fence

Text of Poem

We stretch a barbed wire from corner post
to corner post, 160 rods, half a mile.
It’s a line to go by, even so we step back
a few rods and sight over the tops of the
posts already set to line up the new post.
Who wants a crooked fence and wouldn’t
the neighbors chuckle. We turn the auger and dig
a hole two and a half feet deep and hope
for no rocks or tree roots to block the
twisting blade (tree roots are the devil,
you need an ax for them). We sweat and
place a post in the hole (creosoted post
that won’t rot—we hope), line it up and
tamp the dirt in as if we planted it.
The corner post takes the most care,
it has to stand the strain of the tight
stretched wire all the way. We set it in
concrete, brace it against another post,
tie them together with strands of wire
twisted so tight it sings. One post has my
initials and date scratched in the cement.
We hung a gate on that one too. We staple
to the posts a thirty-six-inch woven wire
with three barbed wires on top. That’s what
holds the outside out and the inside in.
Simple, as if the farm insists on order.

First Line
We stretch a barbed wire from corner post
Original Pub Location
Original Publication Date
1979
Original Citation
Snake in the Strawberries (1979) 6.
Complete Poems
393
Hearst Collections
Word Count
218
Poetic Form
open
Themes
Twitter Quote
That’s what / holds the outside out and the inside in. / ​Simple, as if the farm insists on order.