Thursday, January 10, 2019

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down"

Robert Frost challenged the validity of erecting walls

I read Robert Frost's poem "Mending Fences" again. In light of Trump's grandstanding for $5.7 billion for a wall between the US and Mexico, this 60-year-old poem takes on fresh meaning.

In the poem, Frost challenges the old adage that "Good fences make good neighbors." He tells of he and his neighbor mending the stone fence between their properties each spring. He ponders why they bother, for neither keep animals. His neighbor, however, is insistent on the practice and repeatedly quotes the dictum.

But Frost suspects there is perhaps a divine or natural power that brings down parts of the stone wall each year.

I especially like the following lines:
"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..."

"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..."
Frost reflects on his neighbor's quoted phrase and stolid actions:
"...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..."
I ask: Why walls? What--or Who--is it that wants the superficial walls between us down?

Seems to me it's wisdom to cooperate with that Something.

John Franklin Hay

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Last to Arrive?

Shall we take our place among the unlikely visitors at a stable in Bethlehem?

At the end of the Christmas season and on Epiphany (January 6 marks the visit of the Magi and Light to all people), I think about the continuing, unusual draw of unlikely people to an unlikely place in the heart—Bethlehem—and I offer the following poem:

First, census-compelled throngs
swell the local populace,
burgeoning homes and hostels
with not-so-welcome guests.

Then, a man and pregnant young woman
arrive, seeking vainly for a room.
Bedding down in a stable,
their boy is born among livestock.

Later in the night, gnarled shepherds
traipse in, finding their way
to the mangered newborn,
just as an angel had told them.

How much later we do not know, Magi
come with gracious gifts,
following a star that draws them
from beyond any traceable map.

And later still, from the four corners
of earth and time, we make our trek.
Are we the last to arrive
at the gathering in Bethlehem?

Years from now, until the end of ages,
more will be drawn and find the One
whose birth angels once proclaimed
and so shall forevermore.

Read my fuller reflection on Epiphany -

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA