on the subject of building walls

July 15, 2017

(for Julie)



It's not the kind of wall to stop you or your kin

from crossing to the other side.

It is the kind of wall that will halt you in your

tracks, because of the art of diplomacy.


Take a pair of woman's hands: fine, long fingered,

bones brittle but supple in deftness and kindness.

See how she takes the spade, digs the trench,

cuts through the soil to lay foundations.


How she lingers over every stone, its shape,

whether scarred, or scabbed with lichen crusts.

How she imagines each unique rock

expelled from the unstilled bedrock, understanding


the years of their standing in the weathering

ways of sun and storm and dreich, or laden,

rain-heavy, at the bottom of the garden where

the couch grass snakes its wiry roots.


She will separate each rock, large to one side,

small to the other, take a chisel and a hammer

to splice, to cut those tiny odd-shaped pieces

– they will do for the infill. Every stone,


its patina mottled or smooth will have a place

in this woman's wall, as will every easy-to-nest rock.

A wall is built one stone by one stone,

fitting in with the neighbours on all sides.


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