Embraced by weeds,
I harvest boards.
I’d rather embrace
the young bride who will scrape
a bungalow to build a mansion
but this old fence, precious like barn wood,
weathered yet strong, they’ll use for decor,
perhaps the front door.

Decades ago
in a rougher town I set these posts,
nailed these planks for a prickly man
who leered at schoolgirls, offered massage.
A Molotov cocktail destroyed his garage.
So he hired me to wall the property
like a stockade for rusting Volvos
while the town grew less hardscrabble,
more gentry.

I speak no history to this innocent,
unborn when this saga began.
I am the ancient handyman.

She writes a check
while I pluck stick-me-tights
from shorts, from socks, from shirt.
Ick! she says. Don’t drop them in my dirt.
So I’ve brought this handful of barbs
for you, my friend, the clutch of history
here in free country to do what seeds do.

Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. He’s a pretty good carpenter and a crackerjack grandfather in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.

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