Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pictures, Poems, Prose and Picket Fences

If one picture is worth a thousand words, can one picture inspire a thousand words?

Photo by Hank Kellner

“I can't give you the white picket fence, and if I did, you'd set it on fire.”
Ilona Andrews, Magic Bleeds

Who would?  Not me.

Something in me loves a white picket fence!  Oh, I know the white picket fence is seen by some as symbolic of the ideal American middle-class life—a family and children, a comfortable house and peaceful living.  What’s not to love?

But for me, it’s something more.  I cannot pass a white picket fence without getting a kind of quiet thrill.  It’s a personal enthusiasm, a sort of excitement. 

It all began when I was quite young—perhaps eight or nine years old.  Up the street from our house there was a little cottage.  In front, a white picket fence that held back a profusion of colorful blooms.  The daughter of the house was perhaps six years older than I, and very beautiful—like a delicate flower fairy.  I was enchanted. She treated me fondly, like an adoring older sister.  (My own did not!) 

As these things go, time passed, and of course we went our separate paths.  But for me, that white picket fence that surrounded Laura’s yard became a symbol of enchantment, a promise of wonderful things to come. 

Years later, I discovered that my husband shared my fondness for picket fences and the dreams they conjured.  When he read the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph—the one which starts, “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple / With a red hat….”, my husband said to me, “I want to grow old with you, so we can run our sticks along a picket fence.”  And so it was that this picture of a white picket fence called to my poet’s muse.

Along a picket fence

We ran our sticks along a picket fence
I dreamt of growing old along with you
But fate surprised us both and changed the path
Along which both of us had gaily run.

Now that fence grows older dear than you
Since you were torn untimely from the world
And so I travel lonely down this path
That echoes faintly with your well-loved laugh

Three score of years have passed since we were wed
A score since I have traveled here alone
Who knows how many years I may have left
Before our paths again become as one

                                                ~ Elizabeth Guy

In my book Reflect & Write (Prufrock Press, 2013), another writer’s inspiration produced an entirely different poem coupled with the same picket fence photo.  The poem “picket fences” by Laurel Guido, a 17-year-old student contributor from Lake Bluff, Illinois, uses the unexpected image of a picket fence to which she compares her young love. 

What do picket fences mean to you?

 Coming next week ~                    
Why him?

Also, visit my co-author's blog at
See his ten-part series on photo prompts to inspire writing at

                     Another Helpful Source for Inspiration

For more photos and information not included in this blog, please visit Reflect and Write contains more than 300 poems and photos; keywords; quotations; either “Inspiration” or “Challenge” prompts; a “Themes to Explore” section; a “Twelve Ways to Inspire Your Students” section; a special “Internet Resources” section, and more. Includes CD with photos and poems from the book. Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photos to Inspire Writing by Hank Kellner and Elizabeth Guy (Prufrock Press, 2013), 153 pages, $24.95.

1 comment:

  1. Picket fences have been a common site in American neighborhoods since the colonial times. They continue to be one of the most popular fence design options available today.

    White Picket Fence