Ralph Burns


Barbed Wire


Two or more strands twisted together,
Oxides and baser salts, admixture
Of carbon, metal of lash and scourge,
Strung like a virus, barbed intervals,

Stapled by hand to bois d'arc poles,
Woven by machine, "devil's rope"
Of vast interior plains,
Of meadows bruised by their own

Amplitude, barbed wire of a thousand
Different kinds, undulating loops,
Half round and square--Reynold's Web,
Preston's Braid, Meriwether's Cold-

Weather Wire, Shellaberger's Long Zigzag,
Walking Wire, Curtis's Ladder, Visible Lace,
Arch and Leaf, Descending Beads, Staple Barb,
Open Diamond Point, Sproul's Twins,

Elsey's Ribbon, Brink's Buckle, Ellwood's Star,
Flute and Rib, Spool and Spurs, Joined Saucers,
Tie through Eye, Body Grip,
Blake's Knee Grip, Underwood's Tack--

Unloved, unloving; that to name these
Does no political good, but as precision
Is polemical, against vague statement
And circular evasion, as the sharp angle of sun

And crossed wires together body forth a spark,
It is some kind--cold, unmusical, utterly itself,
Keeping cattle in, or the enemies of sheep
Out.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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