Why they Built the Higher Factory Yard Fence

Keely liked to brag a lot;
we egged him on, he was a bit dense.
Once we were playing chicken-close-to-cliff.
We rode our bikes just inches
before the abyss.
Keely kept right on going
and was laid up for three months.
Then on a September day,
the day before they opened school,
Bill bet Keely five bucks
(five bucks was a fortune)
that he couldn't write his name
on the wall, high atop the factory roof.
Bill dared,
"Think of it, the name Keely up four stories high
written in four foot letters."
So Keely climbed the fire escape with paint and brush
while Larry and Derril played lookout.
With red paint he got as far as Keel,
then Bill joked and screamed,
"Someone's coming better run."
Keely dropped his brush, rushed to the rungs,
but slipped and fell all the way down.
This time he was laid up forever.

Children's secrets are often exposed,
a refusal to eat, a cry in the night,
invites parental inquisition.
But a vow was taken when
Bill, Derril, Larry, and I caballed
that day, cowering breathless and unseen
behind the schoolyard handball wall.

But a sideways glance, a sudden silence
betrayed us every time we'd pass the higher fence
that now surrounds the factory yard.

Richard Fein

If you've any comments on this poem, Richard Fein would be pleased to hear from you.