Sunday, January 15, 2006

Axe Handles

One afternoon the last week of April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
and go gets it, and wants it for his own.

A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!

"When making an axe handle the pattern is not far off."
And I say this to Kai"
Look: We'll shape the handleBy checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with----"And he sees.
And I hear it again:
It's in Lu Ji's Wên Fu, fourth centruy A.D.
"Essay on Literature"--in thePreface:

"In making the handle
Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe
The model is indeed near at hand.

"My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe,
I am an axe
And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture

How we go on.

From Gary Snyder's collection No Nature: New and Selected Poems