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When I complained about some of the tedious jobs I had as a boy, my mother would tell me, Ted, all work is honorable. In this poem, Don Welch gives us a man who's been fixing barbed wire fences all his life.

At the Edge of Town

Hard to know which is more gnarled,

the posts he hammers staples into

or the blue hummocks which run

across his hands like molehills.

Work has reduced his wrists

to bones, cut out of him

the easy flesh and brought him

down to this, the crowbar's teeth

caught just behind a barb.

Again this morning

the crowbar's neck will make

its blue slip into wood,

there will be that moment

when too much strength

will cause the wire to break.

But even at 70, he says,

he has to have it right,

and more than right.

This morning, in the pewter light,

he has the scars to prove it.


From Gutter Flowers, Logan House, 2005. Copyright 2005 by Don Welch and reprinted by permission of Logan House and the author. This weekly column is supported by the Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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