Poetry Moment: 'Mending' by Noah Davis
Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.
This episode’s poem is “Mending” by Noah Davis.
Noah Davis grew up in Tipton, Pennsylvania, and writes about the Allegheny Front. His poetry collection, Of This River, was selected for the 2019 Wheelbarrow Book Prize by Michigan State University’s Center for Poetry. His poems and essays have appeared in Southern Humanities Review, Best New Poets, Orion, The Year’s Best Sports Writing, and North American Review, among others. He was awarded a Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellowship at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Jean Ritchie Appalachian Literature Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University.
Love, like death, has been written about by poets for thousands of years. We long for it. We grow with it. We wither without it. From our earliest days, we learn from others what love is. In his poem, Davis remembers working with his grandfather to build stone walls around a meadow, an act they shared as an expression of love for the land and each other. Now as an adult, laying with his lover, he thinks about the act of building those walls, how his grandfather, after a long winter, would walk the walls to repair them from the freeze and thaw that dislodged a stone, causing the entire structure to be compromised, threatening its very existence. The poet takes the same care as his examines his lover’s body, and behind all of this the echo of Robert Frost’s words from his poem “Mending Wall”: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, / That wants it down.” Davis’s use of these lines as an epigraph for his own poem casts a shadow that may offer a threat.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.
When I lie down with your
back against my chest, I think of how
my grandfather stacked river stone,
one upon another, building a wall
along the edge of the meadow.
And as my palm holds your hip,
I imagine the ball of bone
beneath the flesh, resting
like the cat at the foot of the bed.
And just as my grandfather would walk
the walls in April to find where
stones had cracked and crumbled,
I meander your body, placing my lips
along the backs of your legs, the bend
in your back, your neck that strains
under the day’s labor. And where lips
cannot reach, words act like the oval rocks
we wedged into crevices, saving the wall
that keeps the world from our bed.
That was “Mending” by Noah Davis.
Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at WPSU.org/poetrymoment.
Music by Eric Ian Farmer.