Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Wall

More than twenty years ago, I was invited to Japan.
They said they wanted me to help take down a wall.
It was a glory and an honor that I'd never have expected,
So I came out of the airport standing tall.

They showered me with welcome, made me feel just like a hero,
And they said they hoped the wall would soon be gone.
Surrounded on all sides by smiles, armed with my imagination,
I got to the task that I'd been set upon.

I chipped away at those old bricks and howled with every hole I made,
But didn't seem to get so far at all.
It seemed the bricks I knocked away were being put in place again;
Indeed, someone was building back the wall.

It wasn't hard to find the culprits undoing the work I'd done;
It was the ones that I'd been sent to aid!
They said they didn't like the wall but feared they couldn't do without it.
Otherwise, they wouldn't make the grade.

"Please try to understand," they said. "We want you to attack the wall,
"But do not want it ever to come down,
"For if it did, we'd lose our purpose and perhaps our reputation.
"We would be the black sheep of the town."

Appealing to the youth was even less successful in the end.
The wall made them feel safer, it would seem,
And they really only wanted to get by with the least effort,
Join society and flush away their dream.

I realized that from the start I'd only been a token,
Just a figurehead sent by official order.
My purpose shot, I all but ceased my efforts to destroy the wall
And just became a human tape recorder.

Eventually I left that role, and just did what I came upon,
But then one day I got another call.
The mysterious academy that stood upon the forest hill
Was asking me again to face the wall.

Though skeptical, I took the task and found what I expected;
Once again I seemed for nothing but appearance.
But suddenly some reins were handed to me, and a saddle offered.
I was given higher-level clearance.

The wall was mine to strike at will, but caution was required.
Little holes would be allowed there to remain.
But if I made a bigger gap, the backlash was immediate,
And so I stayed content with lesser gain.

One year there was a mighty crash; I'd brought an entire section down,
But instead of praise I received only blame.
Relieved of my position, I was relocated and reinstalled
As punishment for not playing the game.

The leader of the PTA complained it was a waste of time;
He really didn't care if his child learned.
He said, "I'm paying you to get my kid into a college.
"All that education stuff can just be burned."

The students, too, were up in arms about the deed I'd done.
They thought the wall was absolutely necessary.
They'd long been trained to see it as a symbol of their status,
And without it they'd be only ordinary.

From that point on I realized that I would serve my purpose best
By putting little holes in the wall
While at the same time working with my colleagues in the normal way
And making sure the old bricks didn't fall.

But now, after several years, the Principal has summoned me
And given me a shocking, new command.
He says it's time to give this old academy a working over,
And he wants the wall off of his land.

No more concern for the PTA, the system, or the old opinions;
Now I must attack the wall again.
Twenty years ago, I know I would danced around with joy,
But I was so much younger and naive back then.

For I can hear the voices in my memories still screaming loudly,
"That old wall must stand, or we'll be lost."
But now I'm being told I have to take it down in one fell swoop,
And I can't help but worry about the cost.

But worst of all, this unexpected order from the power room
Has left me feeling more than just surprised.
And what is more, I find my twenty years of cold experience
Have left my voice and thinking paralyzed.

What do I do now...?