Where There’s A Wall – Joy Kogawa

Where there’s a wall by Joy Kogawa is a piece that contains several layers of meaning. But according to Joy Kogawa’s past of adversity against the Canadian government and her experience in Japanese Interment camps, her poem touches on war and brings into focus the sense of hopelessness and hope that seems to contradict with each other, mirroring the emotions that  she has experienced through encountering adversity within life. Therefore, this poem is about responses to adversity that individuals can either willingly or unwillingly succumb to.

I chose to respond to this poem creatively with my own version of the poem; reflecting the diversity I have encountered in my own life, and how there is a constant struggle between persisting and giving up.

where there’s a wall,

you say

break it,

crush it;

til it can be seen no more

til it can stand no more.

til it can be built no more.


where there’s a wall

you say

go round, over or through


but how do you expect to get in?


there’s a gate

perhaps a ladder,

but never a door.


a guardian, though

she always sleeps

though her eyes remain closed

til she sees the enemy no more

to the point

where he slips past the boundaries


over the wall

til her world becomes black as


a guardian:

she protects the secret password

from your wretched grasp.


I overhear

the methods of pleasure

of longing

a trap

for extracting clues

to the maps of underground passageways

and air-tight grounds of path

you use

to wear down the wall.


Whose attack

and armies with trumpets

Whose all at once blast

shatters the foundations.


there are knives,

spoons, forks

and spade

the spoon to scoop,

the fork to pike

the knife to slice

and spade to dig in

to feast upon

my flesh:

the wall.

carving skin

imprinting marks


prolonged hunger

and lust.



Ears lean in to the right direction

and cannot hear,

because the voices

cry faint as a whisper

from your belly


with the remains

of me.





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