were meant to climb over and woods dense with underbrush and muck our domain. We hacked through prickly bushes, trampled long grass, collected burrs on our clothes and in our hair, clear cut canopies to lay bare the soft earth, and sat for hours stripping bark to carve the skin that lay beneath. When that grew tiresome, we traipsed to the lowlands to construct a catwalk of doors over swamp and shape an inner sanctum within its towering reeds, until the day my father forced me to lead him to my brother’s towering collection of pornographic magazines. A tower quite impressive in the way it leaned so markedly to the right yet remained standing, almost as tall as I was at 8 or 9. I try to envision my father’s reaction, but all I can see is the tower of glossy magazines, his own stash transferred by my brother from his (my father’s) secret place under the bed to the end of a path of doors that lead to a circle of trampled weeds encircled by eight or nine foot reeds in the recesses of a swamp. I leave my father by the pile and follow the path back out to the road.
Amy S. O’Hearn: I wrote “Fences” many times, first in my head, the vision crisp and clear, and then many times on paper as I cut and cut, chiseling the image into shape, ultimately seeking to capture the swamp, the exposure of the magazines, and the emotional resonance of the scene. I was challenged with each revision to practice elision, to slash language, to match image with the words’ movements and rhythms, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. As I reread the poem now, I am no longer compelled to revise, a rare experience for a poet, as we are always tinkering with language and its infinite possibilities. Thanks, OPA, for selecting my poem and helping me realize its completion.
Amy S. O’Hearn is a recent graduate of the Rutgers-Camden Creative Writing program in Camden, NJ. A teacher of literature and creative writing in New Jersey, she is wading into submissions and finding the water feels fine.