Levi Bentley

from Fence Lines

A fence connects 
at least two points.
It forms and bounds. 

A fence sets forth, 
and it contains.
It has stakes
physically and ideologically.

It is legible, and therefore can sustain 
critical and deconstructive reading.

The fence and its function so successful 
That they are nearly invisible.

The appearance of a fence is not an event.
Neither is the shadow form of capital to which it gives body.

It is so normal as to be a convention. 
So much that it’s occurrence is almost “natural.”
And yet what is “natural” must be questioned.
What is “natural” is often revealed to be 
contingent, recent, hegemonic.
The buried structure of supremacy.

Universal fence literacy and the ubiquitous presence of fences 
means their presence is unremarkable or
without exciting, original, or attractive qualities.
The mind slips sideways.

Nevertheless, I am attempting to remark upon it. 
I am trying to find what will sustain a mark. 
That is to say: What can one say about a fence?




Let's start again: 
A Fence is a line. 

Like all lines, a fence gets read. 
The legibility of fences is high. 
Fence literacy is wide. 

A fence line is a large and simple text. 
Although this apparent simplicity contains 
obscured histories, some surprising details;
unfolds into a complexity that holds several meanings.

If a fence is read, then what is fence language?
There are fence conventions and fence idioms.
It is a frugal but nuanced vocabulary.

Like homeownership, it marks out coordinates
Of material culture.

Its message, always some form of dual text 
who should keep out and who should come in 
modulated or amplified by situation, materiality; 
age, scale, and flourish. 

A fence, is, in some ways, hard to see.
Because of its commonness and because of its permeability.
It creates an appearance of openness, while restricting access.

A fence is a barrier composed largely of space. 
It is visually permeable, but physically impermeable. 
It shows what it bars.

Unlike a wall, it does not create a mystery.
If it does not block your path, you might forget that it is there. 
A fence is provisional, malleable, moveable, scalable. 
Although it is usually metal, it is somewhat plastic.

The primary function of a fence is visual.
but it’s visual capture in photographs proves difficult.
It exists in order to order, primarily to deter, 
generally, without contact. 
A fence then, is persuasive, discursive.
It pre-empts and forestalls physical violence 
like a contract.

Like all language, it indicates an ethics, 
manufactures and constitutes an argument. 
An argument contains a morality, a stance about correctitude, and an appeal to the legal.
It approaches a in form a rudimentary essay, or perhaps, in its baroque repellence, a legal contract.

A fence delineates and orders the social as semi-permeable and semantic membrane. 
Anyone could try to enter, and could probably succeede but it is legible to its surroundings 
What it marks out visually is an argument about usage and about access.
Again, a fence has values.

Most fences, like most language, were once hand-made,
And are now commercial, mass-produced. 
It connects to a history of landownership 
as manifestation of the American Dream
Around a square of concrete outside a rowhome, 
it joins the family unit in being an expression of the basic unit of the state. 

Its installation is an industry.

What a fence values is what is privatized. 
We must ask what is made inaccessible and to whom, for what purpose. 
Why was this fence built?



Levi Bentley is a LAMBDA Literary Fellow, Director of Pedagogy for Blue Stoop, and an artist member at Vox Populi. They teach workshops, write reviews, and make publications with friends. Bucolic Eclogue was released from Lame House Press in July 2016. Chapbooks Obstacle, Particle, Spectacle, &parts, and Stub Wilderness were released from 89plus/LUMA Foundation, Damask Press, and Well Greased Press, respectively. Vitrine released their tape Red Green Blue. Poems have appeared through Apiary, Bedfellows, BlazeVOX, Elective Affinities, Fact-Simile, Gigantic Sequins, Madhouse, Maestra Vida, Magic Pictures, Painted Bride Quarterly, Stillwater Review, The Wanderer, and a variety of other venues.