Language that goes around
the edge of the land, describing
distances and directions between

markers to connect in a line—
that’s what the metes and bounds
method of surveying provides.

It relies on a stand of pines, a bend
in the creek, a fence’s far corner—
references of that kind. It’s an art,

says the man in the courthouse office,
shaking his head at the wordy papers
that define a woman’s property.

She’s dressed up—ironed, tucked in—
to come with concerns: a trespasser,
showing ownership, where her side is.

The man puts it that way to get at
the subjectivity. Trees can fall prey
to beetles. Streams are shifty, swayed

by slight suggestions of topography.
As a reminder that not all evidence
can be depended upon. People talk

this way who would prefer the earth
parceled out in standard lots. Will buy
only what’s square, confirmed, clear.

They say art with as much love of art
as when they say a woman embellishes
wept claims. But I’m just here listening

as I wait to pay taxes today. If some
emotion smears my face’s features,
it’s not surprise. I don’t still believe

a few split rails are enough to ensure
any boundary. I do know how likely
a blouse’s buttons are to be undone.

Read on . . .

of the propoetides,” a poem by Rachel Clemens

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