It itches as I write this, my new tattoo, first tattoo. Black barbed wire wrapped tight around my right biceps and triceps, a desire which took decades to distill. Four times a day I dutifully rub lotion on it, study the design in the mirror, watch it peel and heal, try to discern its history.
First, a boy in southern West Virginia, a drizzly March day. I’m helping my father run barbed wire along a new pasture fence, from locust post to locust post, then about a corner oak. We tug the thorny wire carefully off its roll, pull it tight, and staple it to the wood. Always there’s the knowledge, the dread, the slightest chance that a tautly stretched length of wire might snap. I remember stories: the farmer in an adjoining hamlet, the sudden accident, the way the wire, too tense, turned on him just as a rattler abruptly betrays the snake handler’s confident piety. In my imagination, this man I never met is naked, lying in the meadow grass, his beard the thick copper of August light. The barbed wire’s wrapped about his torso, the dark hair on his chest is rilling with rain and scarlet, a March drizzle such as this is lapping away the blood. “Pull it tighter,” orders my father. I start nervously, and one of the barbs pierces my thumb. Wincing, I lift the wound to my mouth, lick off the red stain, the taste of rust, waiting for the sound of a whip in the rain. Jeff Mann, excerpt from A History of Barbed Wire
West Virginia University Press has just released a collection of West Virginia writing, edited by Laura Long and Doug Van Gundy, called Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia.
The sixty-three fiction writers and poets within this anthology delve deep into the many senses of place that modern West Virginia, the core of Appalachia, inspires.
Throughout this collection, we see profound wonder, questioning, and conflicts involving family, sexual identity, class, discrimination, environmental beauty, and peril, and all the sorts of rebellion, error, contemplation, and contentment that an intrepid soul can devise. These stories and poems, all published within the last fifteen years, are grounded in what it means to live in and identify with a complex place. — Amazon.com Description
We are pleased to report that it contains the title story from Jeff’s first volume of short fiction, A History of Barbed Wire. Thanks to the editors, Laura Long and Doug Van Gundy, for including Jeff.
Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia is now available from fine booksellers, including Amazon.com. Also, A History of Barbed Wire is also available at Lethe Press.