Albert Pinkham Ryder, Under a Cloud, ca. 1900, oil on canvas, 20″ x 24″.
Denise Levertov’s poem “Sound of the Axe” appeared in our Spring 1981 issue.
Once a woman went into the woods. The birds were silent. Why? she said. Thunder, they told her, thunder is coming. She walked on, and the trees were dark and rustled their leaves. Why? she said. The great storm, they told her, the great storm is coming. She came to the river, it rushed by without reply, she crossed the bridge, she began to climb up to the ridge where grey rocks bleached themselves, waiting for crack of doom, and the hermit had his hut, the wise man who had lived since time began. When she came to the hut there was no one. But she heard his axe. She heard the listening forest. She dared not follow the sound of the axe. Was it the world-tree he was felling? Was this the day?
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