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.
the listening forest.
She dared not follow the sound
of the axe. Was it
the world-tree he was felling?
Was this the day?