The Wall and The River
Four generations, friendly, side by side
our two families had farmed, with the old wall
a place for meeting and shaking of hands
discussing harvests, the weather, a stall
for the Christmas Fayre; plus old friends who’d died.
The altercation came one Fall when cows
of mine, just twenty or so, were found
eating his grass, having crossed a broken spot
where crumbled stones collapsed in a small mound
rolled down the slope to where the river flows.
He banged hard on my door, smelling of drink
shouting obscenities and with a curse
I tractored out to deal with all the mess -
and slowly, to avoid things getting worse,
mended the wall alone, with time to think.
What demons lie in a man’s gut and heart?
Men’s ancient charge to provide and protect,
build homes, women and children first, fight wars,
duty, leaving shell-shocked men, young lives wrecked
unless by chance they heal the damaged parts.
After that our conversations grew thin;
a minor matter fouled what once had been
an easy-going friendship. And war’s pains?
Manly seen as just another job, keen
to “get over it” - a solution; gin.
The boundary river with natural length
oblivious to Man’s testy divides
provides water for the both of us still;
while the wall, one tenth as wide, might decide
peace or war, with an unreasonable strength.