Fence Repair

By David Lee b. 1944 David Lee
What’s the matter with you today
sed John you and Jan fighting?
On no I said it’s not that
it’s a letter I got that’s bothering me.
Must be from the govament
or the insurance, I can understand that.
No, John, it’s not them this time
it’s from a friend.
Did he die or summin?
You aint sed a decent word all morning
I might as well be working by myself
and let you set on the nailkeg
unrolling barbwore

Oh dammit, John,
it’s just a letter that pissed me off,
I said. It’s from a writer who saw something I wrote
about coyotes killing sheep
and he wrote saying that never happens.
He sez what? sez John.
He said there’s no documented evidence
that a coyote ever killed a sheep
unless it was rabid, I said.
And he said my story was a lie
and should never have been written.
He’s a writer? sez John.
What does he write about?
Oh, he writes novels, I said.
Books about cowboys and Indians
and the California mountains.

He sez that sed John
did he? You know
most chickens I known of
is layers and most folks
I known is liars
and most of them don’t know the different
but that don’t get in the way
of their opinions.
It was a preacher
got his first call
to come to our town back home
his first sermon that everbody
showed up to hear
was how all people is good
it aint no such of a thing
as a bad person

he wasn’t in town half a year
before Travis Newberry
knocked up his daughter in the eighth grade
and he was twenty-four by then.
He’d started preaching late
after giving up on farming
and owning a grocery store
must of been too late
he run out of words after bout a year
we had to elect him to office
to give him something to do.
First thing he voted no taxes
and no pay raises to schoolteachers
so they all known he’d be a good one
mebbe governor some day
had to move him out
of the parsonage and into a house
where he had to pay rent
like real people
so they found him a place
out on the end of town
where they could be alone
with that pregnant girl
they took out of school.
It was skunks out there
a mama and four babies
and his wife and that girl
sez oh they’re purdy
let them alone we like them
so he did
by the time she had her baby
they’d killed all their chickens
the Easter ducks and the cats
it was mice and skunks
running all over that place
they couldn’t live there no more
so he run for state office

they sent that girl
off to Christian school
we never heard of her again
and tried to raise the baby boy
but couldn’t do that neither.
He got elected
to the campaign of no taxes
and close down the schools
cause he blamed it all
on Travis Newberry hanging around
the jr-high parking lot
and moved to the state capital
to live and before
they could rent that house again
they had to set out traps
for two months and rat poison
sed they got twenty-four skunks
but nobody counted the mice
it was awful
took a year for the smells
to go off and it wasn’t no hippies
back then to rent it to
they had to wait it out

so he run for Warshington office
six years later
and put the boy in the orphanage
up for adoption
he might of been a scandal
but he didn’t get elected
they made him a judge instead
after that and he’s rich
still there and being so famous
he don’t pay no rent
the state gave him a house
and a car and a maid

but that still don’t mean he known one damn thing
about people or skunks or mice
or preaching or farming or
running a grocery store.
I seen it with my own eyes
a coyote running through
a herd of sheep and killed nine lambs
just to do it
and we set up five nights
in our pickups waiting for him
until he come back
and he killed four more
before we shot him
and that’s nothing to what
Allen Dalley out to Summit lost
that one year when they say
coyotes got half his lamb crop
that’s just a bunch of bullshit
because he done one thing
don’t mean he knows nothing
about anothern
and if he doesn’t know
what he’s talking about
you tell him to just keep his mouth closed
or run for office
that’s what it’s there for
so why don’t you forget about it
and you can forget him too for now
let’s get to work
cause all this is real
not something in a book
and has to be got done for sure
not just by thinking about it
and if you don’t get that frown put in a drawer
this is gone be a long day of work

David Lee, “Fence Repair” from A Legacy of Shadows. Copyright © 1999 by David Lee.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: A Legacy of Shadows (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet David Lee b. 1944

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Activities, Jobs & Working, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Social Commentaries

Biography

Born in west Texas, David Lee is the author of numerous poetry collections, including The Porcine Legacy (1974), Driving and Drinking (1979), The Porcine Canticles (1984), Wayburne Pig (1997), News from Down to the Café: New Poems (1999), and A Legacy of Shadows: Selected Poems (1999). Lee has been a boxer, pig farmer, seminary student, cotton mill worker, and the only white baseball player for a Negro League team. He received a . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Activities, Jobs & Working, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.