After “The Mending Wall” by Robert Frost


When I think about my city and yours 

I might first think that you are dolphins

and we are mermaids,

and mermaids, preferring to rest

on the rip-rapped banks of our river, 

won’t bother your dolphins 

who need the breadth of an ocean

to build their neighborhood. 


I also know that when I want 

my kids to see the ocean 

or when you want to walk the river, 

there’s something that lies between us, 

that divides, prevents us from going 

where we might want to be. 


When my grandparents arrived

this place was one big county, 

so I know there’s not too much distance, 

or that we aren’t too different

from their time and place on these roads. 


We should be happy with this change,

the way the street signs move 

from blue to green 

and back again.  

The soft moment of leaving

and then coming home.


What everyone gets wrong about Frost 

is that his fence is at its best when it’s dividing, 

though I’ve found this to be true—

if your neighbor hangs, guts, 

and skins his deer 

from an old swing set frame, 

or prefers to water his azaleas naked 

while smoking his morning cigarette. 


But what he really means 

when the wall breaks down,

and the stones start to fall, 

is that the neighbors — you and I —

meet at the edge of our land,

work together to fix it. 


Noah Renn’s poetry has appeared in North Central Review, New Verse News, The Quotable, Undressed and Whurk, among other journals. He teaches composition and literature at Old Dominion University, and he teaches poetry courses at the Muse Writers Center.

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