Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Thirteen Ways to Look at a Fence

There are some poems where the imagery is beyond me. Last night a friend of mine was sharing with us his morning of creative writing in a workshop. They read through “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens. He dug out his copy from a bag of stuff and handed it over to someone to read aloud.

XII reads “The river is moving. The blackbird must be flying.” It feels like something that might come out of a fortune cookie. That said, the last fortune cookie I read was “You have to be in it to win it”. I would rather have had Wallace’s two lines. It has that mystic mantra feel about it.

My friend also told us they had been issued with homework of a kind – to write a poem about fences or borders. I thought I would combine the “Thirteen ways of looking at…” with the fence. The images are obvious there’s nothing to analyse really.  I just thought about fences and 13 ways I look at them.

that which marks out the boundary
of what will be mine when
the mortgage is paid in full

my warning to you
that you are trespassing and
I will prosecute

something to sit on when
coming down on one side or the other
brings no clear benefits
and makes enemies

it rips the wool off
a sheep’s back and then
waves a white flag of surrender

think Canute by the sea commanding
the waves to come no nearer
then think cows in a field
and the fence

steel yarn
like loosely knitted garter stitch
stretched and nailed between
two concrete posts

wrapped around a building site
knocking on the doors of the young and foolish
saying, “Are you coming out to play?”

wood and whitewashed
an afternoon’s work for
Tom Sawyer’s friends

permission granted for
weeds in my garden
to crawl into next door’s border

a declaration of love
to keep you safe from

splinters of rust
biting my fingers
making me cry

invisible perhaps but
Montagues and Capulets can
never marry

always the reminder
that I’m not free

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