With wire stretchers, fencing tools,
a spool of wire, galvanized
new staples and ten-penny nails
we’d pack the Gator with the tools
to fix whatever fence was down.
An aged elm with rotting limbs
might fall just near a pasture’s edge,
or herds of deer might jump the fence
and nick the top lines with their hooves.
Before we’d start, we’d clear the brush
and briars from the cedar posts
that stood before my Grandpa Routh
was even born; they’ll never rot.
I’d dread the prick of those damn plants
because they always stuck me more
than any of the metal barbs
adorning all the fence our cows
could lean against without a care.
My brother Tristan, Dad, and I
would all wear gloves to keep our hands
from being tattered while we worked.
But Grandpa Routh would skip the gloves,
his hands were like a white oak’s bark.
His arms, however, weren’t the same;
they’d tear and drip with viscous blood,
but never once in all those days
do I recall him grimacing.
When I was young, I wondered how
it felt to feel what pain was like
if I were him with all his years.
I’d know the pain of sawing off
my finger, feel the stitches used
to sew it back so I could bend
it better than the other ones
arthritis would consume with age.
I’d know a thousand hammer blows
intended for a nail or tack
that hit my fingernails instead.
To live and farm like he once did,
to stretch a wire taut and straight
or clear a tangled briar patch,
to use the tools as he was taught
when he spent time with his grandpa,
would be to know the pain involved
and know what makes it worth it all.
(Poetry copyright 2010 by Devin Routh. Used with permission.)