Anthony Cody: In Praise of Fences, Broken

It is deep into the summer and someone is hammering under a midday sun. Metal on metal, into the aging fence. No birds. No barks. No oldies or hums from air conditioning. Just the bang and the echo until the fence is mended.

I peer into the new quiet and see a blue-collared white cat prowling the shade of a pomegranate tree. Soon, a terrier rolls in the grass and laps a leaky faucet head. Both accepting of the other. Both, I have no clue of destinations.

They pass and disappear through an unmendable fence opening—a young saucer magnolia branch has pried open two slats, a perpetual, peering neighbor. I imagine the branch, recognizing its cousin the slat, and asking permission to grow, to make room, to share in the cramped quarters.

A new white cat, red-collared, follows the young branch, and watches me, watch it. And I consider if it is I who is bound. They are outside, free. I am not. I am uncertain of the air. On some days it is the virus, and on other days it is the fires, the smoke, ash particulate. Always it is airborne.

And before I can ruminate upon my mortality, a pandemic, or a climate annihilation, the cat soft-paws the mended fence, and the wood relents. Once again, the arrival of an open turnstile that I will inspect at dusk, only to find a hummingbird and a starling swooping through.

The starling will stay. Perch upon a sprinkler head, and gasp from an open beak. No, it will sing. No, it will call out to the murmuration, and await directions.

Tomorrow, someone will attempt to mend the fence and fail. The day after, another failed attempt. And the month ahead, more of the same. I do not need to speculate about what will occur next year.

Tonight, however, I hear the slat swing softly open. The fence, broken. A night breeze conspiring with it to signal an invitation to the outstretched, the stirring, the vibrating, the wandering, the fleeing, the others, the others, the others, the others, and still others. May they breathe, exist, and remain defiant to the noise of keep out, go back, or stay away, so that here under the stars, a new constellation finds sanctuary.

Bless these fences, broken. May others follow.


More from our “In Praise Of” series:

The Variable Speed of Time, Ösel Jessica Plante
The Vase, Maw Shein Win
Scissors, Conor Bracken

Anthony Cody

Anthony Cody is the author of Borderland Apocrypha (Omnidawn, April 2020), winner of the 2018 Omnidawn Open Book Contest selected by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, a National Book Award in Poetry finalist, a PEN America / Jean Stein Book Award finalist, a California Book Award finalist, a LA Times Book Award in Poetry finalist, and longlisted for The Believer Magazine 2020 Editor's Award in Poetry. He is a 2020 Poets & Writers debut poet and a 2020 Southwest Book Award winner. A CantoMundo fellow from Fresno, California, Anthony has lineage in both the Bracero Program and the Dust Bowl. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Academy of American Poets: Poem-A-Day Series, The Colorado Review, Magma Poetry (UK), Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, The Boiler, ctrl+v journal, among others. Anthony co-edited How Do I Begin?: A Hmong American Literary Anthology. He collaborates with Juan Felipe Herrera and the Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio. Anthony has received fellowships from CantoMundo, Community of Writers, and Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference. Anthony won the inaugural 2020 CantoMundo Guzmán Mendoza / Paredez Fellowship for his work-in-progress poetry manuscript, "The Rendering", selected by Aracelis Girmay. He has taught ecopoetry at Fresno State and led workshops across the country. He serves as an associate poetry editor for Noemi Press and a poetry editor for Omnidawn.

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