Boundary Wall

Boundary Wall 


“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”.

“He moves in darkness as it seems to me.”

Robert Frost, Mending Wall.


My neighbour calls to ask my time 
To inspect the wall
That runs between his house and mine.

I follow his bent back,
Behind which tight-clasped, 
His hands are counter-weight
It seems to some unstable joint. 
He rolls on the loose rock
Of the rough road,
While at my heels his dog,
All its imagination bred
In the ecstasy of droving,
Sheep, car or man. 
 
This collie knows the wall well,
Scrambles over it most mornings
To follow the fox-trail down
Under the hazel-hedged lawn,
Past where years ago,
A companion house,
Once stood.

Arriving at the spot,
Ignoring the dog’s playfulness,
We stop and look
At the misdemeanour of the wall.
Some rocks have tumbled out of place
From the dry stone wall
That forms, at best of times,  
An unstable boundary
Between us both.

It needs consent to spend
Some time together,
And repair the stand it makes.
For in the fossils of this stone, 
Is stored the bonded molecule,
The tooth and claw
Of our discomfiture.


My ash pit is to blame.
The rain has made a slimy residue
With what remains of wood and turf 
That seeping between 
Lets slip the rock.

I view the long line of wall,
Encrusted as it is with Ivy spikes
And blossom from the Thorn,
Being now not so much his neighbour
As the outsider 
I am brought to see,
From his perspective,
The full irony of my place.
My offer to help 
(Always unnecessary)
 Is foolish now. 
His tractor will make repair.
“This is the trouble with burning turf”, he says,
 I tell him that mostly I burn logs 
To help preserve the bogs.

As he turns towards the house
I do not see his face,  
The dog is pissing by the tank for oil, 
It looks up concerned,
And finished, takes me to the gate,
Unfriendly with my departure. 
 

I put the kettle on the hob 
Angry with this arthritic man
Who admonishes me
For causing the wall to fall,
Mocks the anachronism
Of my endeavour,
“Not many people in these parts
Would manure a hedge”.
And some years ago
My scattering of wild seeds 
Meant I coveted the field.
What other explanation could there be?

Lines like walls often fall
And try as I might,
Within the walls of this stone cottage,
I cannot always find my voice.

4 thoughts on “Boundary Wall

  1. I love this poem. It reminds me about what polarised and conflicting emotions you have to deal with when you move to a new place, how sometimes the anger is not always directed exactly at you and the wisdom you learn when you live in the countryside.

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  2. If I’m not mistaken, isn’t this poem from a while back? Is it reworked (I don’t remember the original minutely). Someday, Tony, we’ll have a collection of your land poems out there. They are so essentially Irish, bound to the life in the earth, the stones; human. Thanks for sharing it (again?) All love, Beth

    *We dance round in a ring and suppose, / **But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.* – Robert Frost

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