The morning after our white picket fence is removed because it was already falling down on its own, our neighbor is already out in the yard building a stretch of white picket fence on our border to complete the circuit of fence that surrounds his property. He already has foliage on that edge, but the new fencing looks good. He’s done a lot of work on his house and yard, most of it himself. I stop to chat briefly. He says, You’re not going to leave it bare, are you? I bet he’s thinking, Good fences make good neighbors. That’s what the neighbor in Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” says. That’s the catchphrase to which we’ve all clung.
But the speaker in Frost’s poem responds, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out / And to whom I was like to give offense.” I hadn’t really looked at our yard until the fence was gone and the neighbor asked whether we’d leave the perimeter unguarded, but now I pivot to take in our little expanse. I rather like the unenclosed feeling I have at that moment. The fence removal marks a changing of the guard, a sending the guard away. We’ve dismantled a boundary between what is ours and what is not ours in this world. I feel mischievous, having had our fence torn down. There’s something I don’t love about a white picket fence, and now everybody knows it. // Anna Leahy
Anna Leahy’s work has appeared recently in The Huffington Post, The Pinch, and The Southern Review. Her book Constituents of Matter won the Wick Poetry Prize. She co-writes Lofty Ambitions blog and is writing a nonfiction book with her husband about the end of the space shuttle program.