Something There Is That Doesn't Love A Wall...

The Gaza breach.

The Gaza breach. Source: Khaled Desouki/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Source: Khaled Desouki/Getty Images

Poetry may seem pretty useless — it barely even passes the time on the Metro, and who can stand scansion in a moving vehicle? I often get the feeling that I'm doing a puzzle that I can't possibly solve when I'm reading it — particularly when I'm mired in a language poet (that sounds dirty, but you know what I mean). Today, however, when I saw the pictures of the border breach in Gaza, I was reminded of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems. I'm not taking a position here — the situation between Israel/Palestine/Egypt/The World is so deeply complex that we often can't get anywhere with an hour show and three experts — but the experience of walls, fences, borders, is a uniquely human one, and always prompts strong emotion in me whether the wall belonged to Hadrian or East Berlin. And it makes a pretty strong argument for the reading of poetry — if you don't believe me, here's Robert Frost's Mending Wall in its entirety. Enjoy.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

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