The Electric Fence

the thing about electric fencing is that
cattle must be taught to “fear the wire”;
no cow is born with such a fear,
but learns it through the sting
of repeated electrical shocks,
as many times as it takes.
the well-trained need no wire at all;
an inert length of rope will do the trick
to keep them in their place.
one might wonder at
a herd of two-ton creatures held in check
with barely more than a string:
“don’t these cows know that virtually nothing
stands between them and freedom?”
but one must understand the insidious way
that wire stretches inside the soul
and becomes an immovable barrier:
ever present, ever-punishing with fear
of pain that is unpredictably enforced,
ensuring self-policed docility
with a minimum of effort.
“it’s all in their heads,” one says
and scoffs at cows with “silly” notions
that crossing a line carries a punishment
when all one can see is string.
but in the mind, the wire is tangible and real,
a daunting barrier deliberately placed
by those who knew exactly what they were doing.

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