Three Strands of Barb

by Rebecca Van Camp
Wild Poetry Forum
Third Place, September 2014
Judged by Suzanne Lummis


The ground too wet to plant, Dad would walk
the fences, a claw hammer hooked
to his overalls, bumping against his thigh.

Hold it right there
he’d say, as I pulled taut
a sagging wire and he sunk a staple.

Hunters don’t give a damn about your fences.
As far as Dad knew, three strands were enough
if you didn’t allow hunting.

Step through here, but mind your breeches.

That’s how I learned
there were places to get out.

There’s always something to keep in, too.
Life leans against restraints and you don’t want
wild ideas running in the corn.


It's a fairly sure thing that if writers can accurately convey a man's hands-on work, or a woman's, they can catch something close to the core of that person. I'm taken with the plain-speaking, understated manner of this poem, which culminates in a stroke that manages to be both country-simple and deliriously poetic. Wild ideas running in the corn. As we say in our contemporary vernacular--How great is that? --Suzanne Lummis

  • December 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      Avaricious
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      Second Place

      To James Bulger, aged 2, murdered February 1993
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