Snow Fence

by Jeff Burt

Spann unrolls the snow fence 
and I first lift then drag it 
post to post through drifts, 
the posts once dressed like scarecrows 
now tilted four by fours 
looking like tombstones to failure. 

I alternate gloves to keep my hands 
from freezing, lose more wire tacks 
to the snow than I get to bite into wood. 
Wisps of flakes rise from the ground 
whenever the wind blows 
and follow currents no differently 
than water in a riverbed. 

All seem to end up in our faces, 
and I ask if we can’t turn our backs 
to the wind and work from the other side, 
but Spann assures me there’s an aesthetic 
to have the backside of the fence 
to his father’s farmhouse, though what 
that aesthetic is he cannot say. 
The lore of yore, he says, passed down generations. 
You want the pretty side out
and the constructed side in.
Things hold up better that way.

By the end we know it will not matter. 
Drifts pile up against the fence. 
As we look back to the beginning 
the snow has already started to blow across. 
When the wind stops, it piles the snow 
a few feet past where the fence 
was designed to impede it. 

We finish what we have started, 
and return to the warmth of the farmhouse 
and then, just then, in the first few seconds 
of warmth returning, we both feel the sting 
of tacks that have pierced and clawed 
and dragged against and into our fingertips, 
crisscrossed with jabs and penetrations, 
as if a form of secret writing. 

By night, the snow we meant to forbid 
has found its way to the door. 
In the morning our sore fingertips 
rub against our thumbs as if wings 
across a beak in grooming.

photo credit: Robert Thiemann, Unsplash