Mending Wall

There's an arm draped over my hip. The room is dark, quiet, the Olympics in the living room finally turned off, the offensively loudly ticking clock in the kitchen shorn of its batteries for the night. We talk about TV chefs, books, something else I'm not really concentrating on. I wonder if I would sleep better at home.

And then it snaps into my head: Something there is that doesn't love a wall.

These lines come to me half-bidden sometimes. I'll be standing in my kitchen in mid-afternoon, watching the light seep through the window, and there it is: the end of Richard Hugo's "Degrees of Grey in Philipsburg." Plath's "fountains": anywhere, anytime, always aided by moodiness. Ditto Millay.

But "Mending Wall"? That's a fairly unusual one. I'm not expecting it.

I open my eyes to the blank wall in front of me. I'm still talking, or (half-) listening, but now I'm wondering about Robert Frost. This is the only line of the poem I really know. What random file drawer of memory did I pull it from?

The arm is a limited time offer (though it stays for longer than expected). The warmth, the chatter, the prelude: all of it is limited, asterisked, carefully delineated. That's the agreement, the understanding. That's--oh--the wall.

Got it.

A lifetime ago, back in the first year of G., I held out for a long time on falling for him (or admitting that I had), explaining that, for a panoply of reasons, I felt the need to be the Hoover Dam. But late in the year I caved, and, with a shrug, could only say that the Hoover Dam had sprung a leak. (Within a few months, it had all but completely crumbled and floated away.)

I've never been good with walls--my own or others'.

So it was that last night I found myself staring at a blank expanse of a literal one, an expanse I've fixed my eyes on before, feeling something kick around in my chest as I thought, This can only tide me over for so long. Because these current flashes of delight notwithstanding, all of this feels like an odd, murky combination of scattershot and heavy on the rules and regs.

And what I carry with me all the time, patiently waiting and hoping to find it again, is the sense memory of an early morning last fall, of opening my eyes from sleep to see a boy walking toward me, of understanding, for a little while, what it is to be utterly without walls.

'...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 offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'

No comments: