At the southwest corner of the crossing
of two roads in Douglas County, Kansas,
are fields a man staked out with fenceposts
cut from Osage orange, strung with barbed wire.
Did he feel imprisoned by the stark sticks?
Was he sick of doing what they all did?
For some reason, he decided that his fenceposts
should be topped off, crowned with grey rocks.
Was it whimsy or despair that spurred this fancy?
Maybe just a field too full of boulders.
Did the man who would make his mark with fenceposts
fling his ax down, curse the dead wood?
I can see him, straining at his labor
as he harvests, heaves up every capstone,
wires some, as wind howls toward his fenceposts,
thwarts its raging wrath, its lust for emptiness.
Once, my husband, who likes explanations,
said those rocks were set to cover crosscut –
smart thing to do with wooden fenceposts –
if they soak, they rot in spring rain.
Every time I pass, I slow to look again there,
and again try to understand their meaning
for the man known hereabouts for fenceposts
hewn from trunk or limb, stuck in black earth.
Once, I’d visited my father, who lay dying.
All the light he was blazed red behind me,
as I crested the hill beside the fenceposts,
lit the dull rocks, torched them as the sun set.
And I knew the man who put those rocks there
meant them to burn like flames on candles,
unsnuffed by snow, unextinguished by rain,
mutely illuminating, shining through dark night.
– Anne Baber
(Published in Endless, Anne Baber, Finishing Line Press)
Anne Baber’s poetry has appeared in Kansas City Voices and on a Grammy-nominated CD and been recognized by The Ontario Poetry Society, The Writer’s Digest November 2009 Poem-A-Day Challenge, and The Saturday Writers Guild. Her first Chapbook, Endless, is being published by Finishing Line Press in 2011.