Two Poems

A book, he said, must be an axe for the frozen sea inside us.
– Franz Kafka


That was long ago and far away. Here
now, he’d not likely choose and use
that image. Now, here, he might not urge
slashing, chopping through flesh to liquefy
our cold-slow blood. He could not have
known planetary heat would do the job –
burning books along with everything else –
so we don’t need to lift paragraphs, chapters
stanzas over our heads here and now: ice
is not a villain in this melting world.

In this time, he wouldn’t say that – no.
No metaphor of shoulder blades pushed
tight together, power and gravity of the lift
making the axe fall hard, splitting iceberg
minds like logs, releasing frozen seas.
In this time long past his own, he would
find another image. Global warming brings
the chilling sight of water rising – perhaps
he’d see shipbooks sailing bluegreengrey
high seas all round the globe, Guam to Venice.


A Classic Question Considered Within an Early 21st Century
Economic & Philosophical Context


While you are reading this, trees
are falling in the forest without
you there to hear them fall
which means, maybe, they’re not
falling. Though other listeners
(perhaps) are out there
when you’re not – out there
taking responsibility.

Some of us have to read
contemporary poetry.
Some of us have to
hear trees fall in the forest.
Everybody has a job in this poem.
It takes a village –
small buildings made of wood
from fallen trees (as books have been).

You and I both know
(well) two kinds of jobs –
paid and unpaid:
the hearing
of trees falling in the forest
and the reading
of contemporary poetry
are on the unpaid list.

Hardly ever is anyone given
cash money to do those jobs
though recompense perhaps
is otherwise: the sense of wonder
so many bemoan the loss of –
bemoaners are not the ones
who hear the trees falling, nor the ones
reading contemporary poetry.

About Judith Arcana

Judith Arcana writes poems, stories, essays, and books. In 2018, two of her books came out in new editions from Eberhardt Press: 4th Period English, poems about immigration, and Grace Paley’s Life Stories, a biography of the globally-celebrated activist and writer. Poems in Judith’s Announcements from the Planetarium (Flowstone Press, 2017) examine memory, wisdom, and aging into new consciousness. She hosts a live poetry show on KBOO Community Radio in Oregon available online. For more, visit juditharcana.com.

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