Walls is a poem by celebrated Canadian poet and author, Ruth Desjardins

So many people building walls– 

Frightened eyes revealing pain deep inside– 

So many empty places; 

So many empty pursuits; 

So many souls damaged by pain and fear, 

So many cold, cynical words 

To chase away that which they want most. 

So much hopelessness, 

So much fear, 

And agony, 

And so little of love. 

Such a vast, ugly void between people. 

Behind my wall I look at them: 

They’re frightened–just like me. 

And my heart goes out. 

I wish I could build a bridge– 

To offer understanding, 

To say “I know, 

I understand. 

It’s all right, 

You’re safe with me. 

I won’t hurt you. 

We can talk. 

We can touch. 

We can be friends. 

We can learn together; 

We can let love in. 

It won’t hurt us 

Because we understand. 

Wasn’t there ever a time…? 

Perhaps when you were very young, 

When you looked at the sky, 

When you smelled a flower, 

Saw the glory of autumn, 

Studied the lace of a snowflake, 

Felt reborn with the springtime, 

Felt the wonder of a newborn child, 

Heard the laughter of children, 

Felt the sweetness of being loved… 

And lovable… 

And in love… 

Wasn’t there ever a time…? 

In some secret part of your soul, 

When you knew– 

For one brief, flaring instant– 

This is it! 

This is the beat of life! 

This the beauty! 

This is the meaning! 

Wasn’t there ever a time…? 

When you knew what you wanted, 

When your life burst within you, 

When you felt your own importance– 

The glory of your own life– 

Of just being alive 

And on the brink of something wonderful! 

Is that when it happened? 

In the midst of that glory… 

That you met a cynic… 

A builder of walls? A destroyer of souls? 

Was it scorn he threw at your beauty? 

Was it pain? 

How deeply did he hurt you? 

Was that when he showed you the ugliness? 

And pointed at the threatening clouds, 

At the wilting flowers, 

At the barren trees, 

At the coldness of winter, 

At the trouble awaiting a newborn babe, 

And the tears of unhappy children, 

At the futility of love, 

The importance of pain…. 

And fear… 

Is that when it happened? 

Is that how your wall began? 

Did he get your soul? 

Did you believe him? 

No…perhaps not the first time…. 

How many were there? 

How many dream-haters? 

How many scorners? 

And cynics? 

How many pain seekers? 

How many disappointments? 

How many postponements? 

How many betrayals? 

How many destroyers? 

How many bricks have you laid to build your wall? 

And how many times have you secretly returned… 

All alone… 

To look at the beauty again, 

And wish… 

And how many times have you seen it…? 

And even while you gazed upon glory, 

Heard the cynic’s haunting words 

That spoiled it for you. 

And how often have you searched the crowds 

For eyes that have seen the beauty. ? 

How many times have you pointed and said, 

“Look! It’s glorious!” 

How many times have you been shriveled 

By the indifferent shrugs, 

Or the indulgent smiles, 

The laughter, 

The open mockery, 

And snarls…? 

And how many times have you had to doubt 

And wonder… 

“Why can’t they see it? 

“Why can’t they feel it? 

“Why am I the only one?” 

How long did it take to stop looking? 

How soon did you lose the feeling? 

How often have you betrayed it? 

How deep did you bury it? 

How high is the wall you built 

To protect it… 

And to protect yourself from it? 

Can you see me? 

Can you believe there is one 

Who scorned the cynics? 

Can you remember 

How you looked for someone 

To share the beauty, 

The feelings, 

The glory? 

Remember me? 

I’m the one you were looking for. 

I’m the one saw it all, 

And felt it all, 

And knew it all. 

Just as you did. 

Will you look at it again? 

With me? 

Will you try to see it again? 

It’s still there. 

I want to share it with you. 

I want to talk about it. 

I want to defeat all the disillusion, 

All the mockery. 

I want to destroy your wall. 

You don’t need it with me. 

You’re safe with me. 

Your beauty is safe and holy to me. 

I will not hurt you. 

I will not scorn you. 

I will not betray you. 

Let me show you the beauty again…. 

I have been alone too. 

I have been hurt too. 

And afraid. 

I’ve seen the ugliness they showed me.. 

I know what it is…. 

Where it comes from… 

But I have not let it claim me. 

I can still see the beauty. 

When I walk by a stream, 

When a warm breeze blows, 

When the stars shine at night, 

When a child takes my hand, 

When I hear songs of triumph, 

When someone smiles in understanding. 

But I need someone to see it with me. 

There is an emptiness inside. 

For someone to share it with; 

Someone to see it as I do, 

To love it as I do, 

To treasure it as I do. 

Can you remember? 

Can you still feel it? 

Is it you…? 

Can beauty still touch you? 

Who are you? 

A pessimistic idealist; 

A hurt child, 

A damaged soul. 

More frightened by beauty than ugliness. 

More terrified of love than loneliness. 

Don’t let me trust this… 

I’ve been hurt too often. 

I’m afraid. 

Let me shut out the pain 

The pain I will feel 

If I lose again. 

Let me hold onto distrust 

And cynicism. 

Let me build my wall 


And sturdy, 

And thick. 

To keep out pain, 

To shut out hope, 

To lock out love, 

Oh please… 

Don’t let me trust again, 

Or love again, 

Or hurt again. 

Leave me alone! 

Let me live alone! 

And safe. 

Oh God, it’s lonely…. 

But the loneliness won’t matter, 

Or the emptiness– 

I’ll fill it. 

I’ll fill it with music, 

And books, 

And fantasies, 

And television, 

And work, 

And play…. 

I’ll keep busy, busy, busy… 

And it won’t hurt so much. 

Not if I choose it. 

And the pain I cause myself 

When I turn from hope, 

When I reject the love, 

When I destroy the beauty, 

When I build the wall 

I can accept this pain– 

I’ve chosen it. 

It’s mine. 

I create it. 

I accept it. 

It’s safe. 

It’s comfortable, 

And familiar, 

And private. 

And no one knows when I suffer. 

It’s mine alone to endure. 

For no one can see it. 

No one to scorn me, 

Or misunderstand me, 

Or pity me. 

Or laugh at me. 

Or know me, 

Or touch me, 

Or expect anything from me, 

Or understand me, 

Or care about me, 

Or love me, 

Or betray me. 

Nothing of love… 

No one beautiful to enter 

With smiles of love 

Or delight, 

Or warmth. 


No one to betray me. 

No risks. 

No chances. 

I’ve chosen shelter 

And isolation. 

And I will chase the beautiful people away; 

I will reject them more cruelly than any. 

And they will turn from me. 

And I will be safe from them. 

And from hope, 

And trust, 

And love. 

The ugly ones are safe: 

I can see what they are. 

But the beautiful people are threats– 

Because I want so much. 

Because I want to trust. 

Because their warmth will melt my wall, 

Leaving me vulnerable, 

And afraid. 

For no one can be really beautiful? 

Can they? 

Everyone will betray someday. 

Won’t they? 

No one will love me forever. 

Will they? 

I can’t trust anyone. 

Can I? 

Can I? 

I recognize you– 

You–behind that wall of ice, 

I see you clearly. 

You are no longer hidden. 

One sunny day 

When you allowed the ice to melt a little, 

I saw you. 

I saw the dreams in you. 

I saw the beauty. 

I saw the rage too. 

And the guilt, 

And despair. 

And I saw the fear, 

The awful fear– 

And what it does to you. 

How it makes you run from yourself. 

How you paint blackness around you, 

And darkness, 

And fear the sun. 

I saw you. 

And I know you. 

And I love you. 

As you build your wall 

To shut me out, 

As you hurl your cruel words…. 

I stand here. 

And I see you watching me. 

Afraid of me. 

Afraid to let me near, 

Afraid I’11 go away. 

And sometimes you remember…. 

And let me in for a while… 

Then the warmth returns. 

And the icy wall begins to melt. 

And terror returns… 

Again you throw me out. 

And frantically build your wall 




But it’s too late. 

Your wall is transparent. 

And I can still see you. 

You are not alone in there. 

You are not alone anymore. 

I know when you suffer. 

I know why. 

I know how deeply. 

And so, you are not alone. 

I am in there with you, 

Even while I stand out here 

In the cold. 

Even while the wall grows higher, 

And colder, And thicker.

About Author

Ruth Desjardins is a celebrated Canadian writer, born in Cobalt, Ontario, Canada.

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