Monday, March 15, 2010


Up on the ladder this morning mending fence, I couldn't help but hear, in the recesses of the idle mind that such labor kindly affords, the words of Robert Frost, who as a relative newbie couldn't quite grasp why fences were needed when there were no cows around, and when his neighbor had pine trees and he himself had apple trees, so as they went along mending the wall in his famous poem Frost kept bugging his neighbor about the need for the thing, but the taciturn fellow would only say that good fences make good neighbors. Which I suppose may well be true in Vermont, where things are simpler in their ways.

The "something there is that doesn't love a wall," as detailed in Frosts poem, comprised nothing more than frozen ground-swell and rabbit hunters; that's all he wrote. The creators of the fence are the real reason for the fence. Frost made no mention of monkeys, and for good reason: things are simpler in Vermont. Humans are the only animal problem in his equation, and humans at least know what fences are, so he and his neighbor worked together, each on a side, to rebuild the wall between them-- Frost a bit mischievously, as befits a poet.

Their shared fence was meant to keep their own kind either in or out, and that's the whole of it. Simple. You can tell as you read the poem over and over that Frost and his noncommittal neighbor have had no acquaintance with the reasons I have my fence, why my fence is the way it is and why I mend it alone, up here on an early Spring morning that looks like rain. The animal in my equation does not know what fences are, so we do not work together, each on a side. The monkeys do not offer to help keep themselves from my onions, as I do not offer to refrain from swinging in their trees. Unlike Frost, I know what I'm walling in and what I'm walling out.

In those regards I have the advantage over Frost and his neighbor, who view their fence, in a vague, untested way, as a multilithic, fundamentally existential structure: a de facto embodiment of intraspecial distrust. There's no such factor in my equation, which is short and crystal clear, with no unknowns. Up where I live, good fences of this type have nothing to do with neighbors.

To myself I say, as I go along mending: good fences make good monkeys.


Kay Dennison said...

And unhappy monkeys are good -- right?

My favorite line from that poem is: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." I'm not quite certain why but I suspect the the rebel in my soul likes it. Maybe I should let her loose more often.

R. Brady said...

Only when they're unhappy at my fence; elsewhere, they can dance for joy.

And oh yeah, let 'er loose, that ground-swell...

Chrissy said...

I know people put up mental fences... I had a relationship w/someone for over 4 years, he put up fences at first, he slowly let me in, then he slowly kept me out...I got tired of the back and forth feeling especially since I let him in completely... I finally made the decision to end it, which I have never done before... Never had to experience being shut out...nor having to be the one to end a relationship that obviously he did not know how to experience freely..