The first day of the “spring” semester in Borders and Empires. It was my first time with these students. We read Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” (1914) and Darrel Alejandro Holnes, “Amending Wall.” The later makes explicate reference to the former. The students’ remarks prompted some new thoughts about both and enriched my previous thinking about the two together as well as about Frost on his own.

Frost’s poem is both rather vague and yet quite specific in its literal references. Written in 1914, it describes two men, likely of similar station, meeting on either side of a stone wall. There are different types of trees on each side, but no cows. A rabbit was hidden in the wall until hunters dismantled the stones to get at the animal. It seems that Holnes’s perspective may be more that of the rabbit, or at least of the hunted rather than either of the men in Frost’s poem.

One man observes, “something” — nature or hunters or some other unspecified thing — does not love a wall. He asks himself what walls are for, what they wall out or in. The other man, the neighbor, replies that wall make good neighbors. The assertion might prompt readers to ask the New Testament question: who is my neighbor? And, what is entailed in being a good one?

I’m reminded of an article I’ve often used in religion 121. The author gives attention to the locative words in Luke’s parable that we call the Good Samaritan. The neighbor is the one who comes close, who crosses socio-cultural-religious boundaries to come into physical proximity and does good for the one who has been set upon by robbers who crossed boundaries to inflict harm.

Icon of Jesus as the good samarian

Unknown Artist. Christ as the Good Samaritan. Russian. contemporary