Close-up images of barbed wire, especially silhouetted against the sky, have always had a powerful effect on me. I’m not sure why.
Perhaps it’s because its invention enabled the enclosure of the open ranges in the Western U.S. Perhaps it’s the trenches of Europe. Or maybe it’s the growth of the prison industry in my lifetime.
Or maybe it’s this stanza from Auden’s The Shield of Achilles, which I read and understood at a young age:
Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke) And sentries sweated for the day was hot: A crowd of ordinary decent folk Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke As three pale figures were led forth and bound To three posts driven upright in the ground.
I can’t say for certain.