A Story of how a Wall Stands
“At Aacqu, there is a wall almost 400 years old which supports hundreds of tons of dirt and bones--it's a graveyard built on a steep incline--and it looks like it's about to fall down the incline but will not for a long time.” Simon Ortiz
Simon Ortiz is a storyteller as well as a poet. Through his poetry, he revels events from the past as well as memories. Ortiz was very close with his family his father included. In the poem A Story of how a Wall Stands, he discusses a time where his father reveled to him traditions, and culture so as to create a new appreciation of over looked objects, history, and events. The poem is about a wall that surrounds a graveyard connected to a Catholic church in Acoma that was built by the Aroma people. Its old and weathered and looks as though it won’t last but this wall is 400 years old and will last a very long time. Ortiz’s father revels to Ortiz that the walls appearance masks a well structured surface. He explains that you need to look past the assumed appearance of something, that the outside may be hiding a deeper meaning then a quick look.
The poem is of Ortiz’s father building the wall not about the wall that has withstood 400 years. The poem is in present tense so it becomes more of a story instead of a time in history while Ortiz observes. He states,” My father, who works with stone”. The poem is written to be visual. It takes the reader systematically through the process of creating this wall. The father explains that the stone is “Just the part you see, The Stones which seem to be just packed in on the outside”, here he is revealing that you should look past the obvious. The father then says,” Underneath what looks like loose stone, there is stone woven together”, meaning that’s the core of the structure, the part not seen by the eye.
The poem was written in three stanzas in order from the first step of the building process to the last. First “with his hands puts the stone and mud in place”, second “He ties one hand over the other, fitting like the bones his hands and fingers” his father the explains, “That’s what is Holding is together.” Then he continues to explain, “The mud mixed to a certain texture” he is explaining the detailed process of the technique used to make such a stable structure. He is telling his son why he must do it this way, “So that placed between the stones, they hold together for a long, long time”, meaning there is a reason for the tedious work he is doing. It is important to Ortiz to hear the explanation of the building of this wall because there is a significant part of history of his people in this wall.
The building and learning process of the story is very important to Ortiz but the time spent with his father may be more important. Ortiz is showing how story telling is a very important tradition passed on from generation to generation. The story of how this very old wall stands will be passed along. It may be changed or altered but the story’s of the Aroma people will continue to be told for many years to come. The wall contains more than just stone and mud, it is built with the bones, blood, sweat and tears, of the Aroma people. The significance of this poem is the story it tells. Reading this poem I understood it was a story about this very old wall and that a father was passing the story on to his son but lesson learned there was more to the wall then the poem physically reviled. By learning the whole story about the ancient wall, the poem became more powerful and full of meaning. There was a past reveled through the lines of the poem that from first glance could be mist but under the surface was the real structure.