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In Memory of a Banyan Tree: Poems of the Outside World: 1985 to 2022
Three Wooden Trunks
The Country Where Everyone’s Name Is Fear: Selected Poems
  David Axelrod

ISBN 978-0-9981963-5-0     $18  /  $21 (Canada)     5.5 x 8.5       

78 pp      
PUB DATE: SEPT 2017       Featured Poetry


The poems in David Axelrod’s eighth collection journey across the upper Rhine and Alps to contemporary West Jerusalem and far northern Europe, asking, “Where does the joy come from?” Whether addressing the accusation of a “libelous chain of causation” in medieval legend, a moment in an alley with a Syrian refugee, foxes in the Tiergarten, or a Paris side street where the disciple of a charismatic rabbi celebrates “the graven acts God forbade,” the poems in  The Open Hand return us always to earthbound pleasures, stepping toward us to say, after many rehearsals, “stay, enjoy.”


The Open Hand holds the parts of a broken world, the destruction caused by the very systems that were designed to produce order, meaning, and beauty.  This collection is at once a gorgeous love song to the fragments, “each moment filled to its brim by bewilderment and yearning,” and a warning against the dangers of structures that separate us from ourselves and the world we know to be true. The experience of traveling through these poems is remarkable—all of the intensity of being an exile, while catching glimpses of the road back through the small, redeeming beauties of the daily.

—Jennifer Boyden


Heartfelt, meditative, and ultimately redemptive, David Axelrod’s new poems strike at the heart of our existence. That his vision is both grand and universal as much as it is clawing after the smallest of details, which makes reading his work such a visceral experience, only speaks to Axelrod’s humanism and mastery of poetic registers and idioms. Like Miłosz before him, he too aspires “to a form / surpassing all other forms,” so that our “broken cries” could be heard. Indeed, heeding the voice of God at the same time as scraping his “boots on curbs,” he doesn’t look away from “local sorrows, dullness of lives,” but rather lifts “a great burden into the air” by writing poems equally profound and fierce in their intelligence and humility. Do you, dear reader, want to know where joy comes from? Open this fine book to any page and begin reading—it won’t be long before you see your own face “glowing softly in the shelter of cypress.”

—Piotr Florczyk



About the Author

David Axelrod

David Axelrod has published eight collections of poems and a collection of non-fiction, Troubled Intimacies. He teaches at Eastern Oregon University, where he directs the Ars Poetica Lecture Series and edits—along with Jodi Varon—the award-winning basalt: a journal of fine and literary arts. In addition, he is the co-director of the EOU low residency MFA. He is currently at work on new collections of poems and essays, as well as editing a new edition of the poems of the late Walt Pavlich.


For you who struggled to speak
and succumbed to muteness,
who spalled the chips from flint
of wordlessness, who flared
then went dark. For you
in whose fields dampness rose
from furrows sun and wind
soon dried to dust. For you
caught by the gravity of tides
and drowned tangled in kelp.
Who felt the maple bole gnarl
into a hymn to goat-faced gods
unperturbed in heaven. For you
who fired the communal oven
in the square for the last time.
Who Knead us into God, you sang
to vacant air, Breathe us into dark
bread that we may be infinite,
divided, in equal parts shared.
For all who found muteness
uninhabitable as ice-scoured
stone, as barren glacial milt,
snowfall without laughter
of children. Who cast off shoals
confident abundance glimmered
in gunmetal seas. Who stood
alone like the soloist at the end
of music, wailing into the bell,
querying air with wounds.
Who aspired always to a form
surpassing all other forms,
who, unwilling to yield, believed
in broken cries. You, who were
the refuse, error, and debitage
woven into the words of others.
Let us claim some healing now,
the possible amplitudes of awe
that come around only once
in a lifetime, if at all.

—David Axelrod, 2017