I built my dry-stone walls
In the garden, through the years:
Happy, heavy work,
The most gratifying of chores.
While the light of summer evenings
Turned stones to gold,
Bats and swallows swooped
Under Ned’s big sycamores.
But football on the lawn—
Our game of sweat and cheers—
Placed my walls in jeopardy.
Shots that went wide
Loosened wedges inside
The front wall’s hidden heart,
Like medieval weaponry.
My creations were immune
To the strongest wind and rain,
Which passed easily through—
Yet one day we heard a rumbling
Sound: under strain,
On this normal afternoon,
Stones tumbled to the ground.
You looked out the window
Gobsmacked, I recall:
Our patch was rearranged
Because of football.
The second collapse was after
You’d died: everything had changed;
Rivers had been cried.
I repaired the first stone-fall
With bad grace, and no hope
Of getting the wall’s face just right
As we tried to cope
With the loss of golden light.
Into the soil; dexterity fled.
Cross, I reached too far:
Fingers caught between rocks bled.
We persist, but our world is still up-ended:
The second fall remains unmended,
A memorial to the times we missed
The net—you, your mum and me
And the motley set who joined us
For those bouts of summer glee.
While standing in the lower place
I hear your voice and see your face,
And a shiver starts.
Now the wedge-stones in the hearts
Of those of us still here
Keep the whole world from
Collapsing, though it’s undermined.
Past and present are contrasting:
You and I were so aligned.
We had no map: just the lawn,
The everlasting summer evenings,
The football, and the outside tap
To quench our thirst.
I still love that dry-stone wall
As it was at first.