Poetry 2011 / Volume 42

Alcott’s Axe — Ann Struthers

Thoreau found “incessant labor with the hands
the best way to remove palaver from one’s style.”
Borrowed an axe from Alcott to cut timbers
for his cabin.   Alcott was more loquacious
than sparrows, his prose prolongating
as his rambles, random, thick
as purple thistles on his farm.
Thoreau felled enough trees,
trimmed, barked, and notched them,
then sat at the grindstone, spat on the edge
to whet the surface, held the blade
at a steady angle, pedalled furiously,
listened to the hard, wet lip
talk to the blade, remembered its rhythm,
returned the axe sharper
than he found it, his prose stronger.

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