Axe Handles
    Gary Snyder


    One afternoon the last week in 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 pattem is not far off."
    And I say this to Kai
    "Look: We'll shape the handle
    By checking the handle
    Of the axe we cut with-"
    And he sees. And I hear it again:
    It's in Lu Ji's Wen Fu, fourth century 
    A.D. "Essay on Literature"-in the 
    Preface: "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.
    


    Return to
    Nichael Cramer's HomePage--Poetry
    Nichael Cramer's HomePage