Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

20. Fenceposts

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.

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Comments on: "20. Fenceposts" (3)

  1. Now I am waiting, impatiently, for the book with the rest of the poems to arrive in my mailbox.

  2. Donna Wolff said:

    The more I read your poem, Anne, the more power the ending becomes. I can see the fence posts like candles solid in the earth with a red sky for a backdrop, like an eternal promise or guiding lights to comfort loss. It is a beautiful tribute.

    “All the light he was blazed red behind me” is my favorite line and I will always remember it.

  3. Donna Wolff said:

    The more I read your poem, Anne, the more powerful the ending becomes. I can see the fence posts like candles solid in the earth with a red sky for a backdrop like an eternal promise or guiding lights to comfort loss. It is a beautiful tribute.

    “All the light he was blazed red behind me” is my favorite line and I will always remember it.

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