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The Wire


My father strung wire, miles of it,
off a singing spool mounted
on the bed of a red ATV.
The old barbwire my grandfather
strung decades before
stood by, the rotted posts
looking on incredulously, old men
watching a young man dig
a grave. In its claws still, the fur
of cattle thirty years dead.
The oaks that grew along it
were swallowing the wire
in a perpetual circus trick
performed for crows and sparrows.
The barbs were buried rings
deep like dud landmines.
The wire my father strung
was a single wire, electrified,
toothed with dew at dawn.
From a distance
it looked like nothing
was keeping the herd
from drifting across the highway,
fleshing out the cloud shadows.
To them the wire was not a wire
but a border where pain was
the toll for crossing.
We too knew not to touch it.
The only way to take part in
its power was to hold a blade
of grass to it and feel throbbing
through it the wire’s desire to be
channeled through flesh.
But every now and then,
ducking under it too hastily,
I heard a snap then felt it
pinch my spine
through the thin summer
t-shirts I wore.
Turning back, I would wonder
again at how the birds
could clutch it in their naked,
lightning-colored feet
as if it were a thin metal branch.
And somehow I knew the reason
they were able to was because
I stood grounded on earth
and they did not,
and to be on earth is a blessing
we pay for in pain.
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