“Something there is that does not love a wall.”
Robert Frost said that, but he also suggested, in the same poem, ‘Mending Wall’, that “God fences make good neighbours”, so what did he know?
The first wall
I wonder who built the first wall. What
was in his mind, or her mind. Protection?
Privacy? Or something else.
We build our civilizations with walls,
giving us shelter and stronghold.
Keeping out ‘the other’: the elements,
wild beasts, people who are different.
Wall define us, as they divide us.
Walls separate people: and not just the
walls we build. Perhaps the walls we
have to be scared of most are the ones we
can’t see, that we simply believe in.
The second wall
I had a dream about that when I was small.
In my dream there was one note, one musical
one, one sound: and when it sounded all the
walls everywhere came crumbling down. And
all the people everywhere saw…
They saw each other, doing all the things that
people do behind walls. Nobody had anywhere
to hide anymore.
I woke up then, so I never knew if it was a good
thing or a bad thing, not having any walls. Not
having anywhere to go and hide, and being able
to go everywhere; no pretending, no protection.
The third wall
They tell me the Great Wall of China is the only human artifact that
can be seen on the Earth from space.
I’ve never seen the Earth from space. I don’t know anyone who has.
I’ve only ever seen pictures.
They tell me that when you get that high, it’s hard to tell one country
from another. You’d thing they’d be coloured in, like on the old maps
we has at school.
So you could tell.
The fourth wall
When I heard the Berlin Wall was coming down, my first reaction was one of
relief; but then I thought, what if there was a young woman who had spent
years – half her life – painting something on the wall?
Painting a message, or a picture.
If every morning she got up early, and went put and painted just one or two
lines on the wall. Every day, in the rain, or the cold, sometimes in the dark.
It was her cry against oppression. Her protest against the wall.
She almost finished when they pulled it down.
People could come and go as they wished. The wall she’d been protesting
against was gone, as was her creation, split into art-sized chunks, sold to a
I wonder how she felt. I hope she wasn’t disappointed.
I would have been.
Maybe we should look beyond the walls.
Listen: painters and writers and music-makers and film-makers and the
ones who paint graffiti slogans that blossom like bright flowers on the
sides of derelict buildings – all of you.
There’s a fourth wall that needs to be broken down.
Governments and official voices point out forever that good fences make
good neighbours, and tighten the border controls in an effort to make us
happy where we are.
But there is something that does not love a wall, and it’s called humanity.