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Vol. 27, No. 2: Built / Unbuilt

Make a fence

by Jessica Jacobs

said the rabbis, around the Torah. And this world
is lousy with them. More than we can count
on our dog walk alone: chainlink and stone and white

wooden pickets. Fences to keep people’s bad barking dogs
in, to keep our bad barking dog out. His nostrils flaring
wide as a twirled skirt as he reads the tales of past passersby

on fences that mark what is another’s burden, another’s
privilege to tend, and what is open to the traffic of strangers.
Called before the Torah, a reader traces the cramped letters

with a yad, a metal pointer topped by a tiny pointing hand.
If it feels colder than the air, it’s because silver steals
your body’s heat, this tool to keep your place, to keep you

in your place, to keep you from marring even a single sacred letter.
This, one fence among many: Do not bring the Torah
in the bathroom, do not sit beside it on a bench, do not stand before it

naked (lest you be buried naked, stripped of all the good you did).
But sometimes barriers grow so large it’s hard to see
what they’re protecting. And here is the fig tree yearning

past its yard, reaching toward the walk with its fat-fingered leaves.
Here, the arbor propping branches slumped as the shoulders
of a weary giant—yet under its hunch, an exuberance of mulberries.

There, the yellow house whose bramble is more than worth its thorns:
ross of ink dripping from the branches, the blackberries call us
to make a quill of our tongues. Let every fence in my mind have a gate.

One with an easy latch and well-oiled hinges. Our neighbors
urge us to indulge—There’s more than we can possibly eat—so
here, love, is fruit with the sun still inside it. Let me

thumb the juice from your chin. Let us honor what we love
                                                         by taking it in.

Jessica Jacobs is the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, winner of the Devil’s Kitchen and Goldie Awards, and Pelvis with Distance, winner of the New Mexico Book Award. Chapbook editor for Beloit Poetry Journal, she coauthored Write It! 100 Poetry Prompts to Inspire with her wife, Nickole Brown.

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