The National Poetry Review

Denton Loving

THE FENCE BUILDER

My graves don’t rise or sink
the grave digger says after I show him

the place to bury my father.
I take in the view as if this valley

is what he’ll see for eternity.
Down the hill, children play

outside the elementary school.
Sheep pasture around the cemetery.

Some people just push their pile of dirt back in.
But I tamp the dirt at every level.

I’d never wondered why some graves swell
and some settle and sag

but the grave digger’s words stay with me.
He taps the clay above my sleeping dad,

leveling the damp ground
just as the man in the casket

taught me to tamp around wooden posts
to make a new fence last,

packing the dirt and rocks
so wire is pulled taut, forced to hold tight

for at least a generation,
those rhythmic strikes a refrain

for all who take pride in a task well done,
those men who work the earth,

the fence builder erecting his monuments,
the grave digger and all he lays to rest.


DENTON LOVING is a graduate of the Writing Seminars MFA Program at Bennington College. He has also studied with Margaret Atwood, Amy Hempel, Ron Rash, Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle and George Singleton. His fiction, poetry, essays and reviews have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Chattahoochee Review, The Threepenny Review and Iron Horse Literary Review. The editor of Seeking Its Own Level: an anthology of writings about water, published by MotesBooks, Loving is the author of a collection of poetry, Crimes Against Birds, published by Main Street Rag.

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