Malka Older



You’re always trying with your walls
as if anything could keep you safe.
You built your house with mud, then bricks
then you wanted a garden too, and built
your wall around that. For the wind
you said, or maybe it was the wolves.
Six feet, then ten. But still there was a gate
so you added guards, and slept safe
until you thought to worry about the guards,
their friends and cousins, wanting to come inside
always wanting something, inside.
So you moved away, down the road and then
away from the road, twelve-foot walls and
eyes instead of guards, beady windows
you could watch from safe inside instead
of sleeping. It was unnerving, that vision of
empty space before the door; you imagined torches,
unseen many-headed mobs, and help far away.
You bought an island, but it was inconvenient and
water has never reassured you as much as walls:
even in the time of moats, you needed your keep.
A planet perhaps? But it’s not distance you crave but
the perfect wall, impenetrable and close around you:
a shroud of silken armor, a force field with no flaw.
You knew something like that once, and floated
unconcerned, without fear of what lay without.
Foolishness. There’s no going back.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:Perhaps because I've read a lot recently about the people directly affected by walls both existing and planned, both literal and metaphorical, I wanted to write about the other side of it: what walls do to the people who build them. 

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