Once upon a time is what the fence dividing up a mountain
range announces, in lines at once irregular and even.
For drama it depends upon a clear beginning, middle, and
end. Its effects? Cathartic, purging landowners of their terror,
interlopers of their pity. On guard! the playwright cries.All
the world’s a fence, the groundlings say.
In the ancient quarrel between fancy and the imagination the
fence takes both sides. Nor does it distinguish between form
and content, poetry and prose.
These are the four directions of the fence: up, down, right,
wrong, black, white, male, female. Nevertheless, at night the
fence points only toward the future, time’s true north.
In Tennessee someone is pouring the wilderness into a jar —
that’s one way to build a fence. Here’s another: trace a pebble’s
lineage back to Creation.
Vested with moonflowers and intimations of the miraculous,
the fence tilts into the hills, loosening its nails in a provocative
fashion, unbuckling the armor men are saving for the final days.
See how the fence swaggers in the wind, embodying a dying
sense of justice; how it casts a shadow over the rumpled sheets
of mud tucked into an arroyo in the wake of a flash flood;
how it reveals our weakness for design.