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Monday, October 05, 2020


 by Judith Terzi

a very, very loose translation of "Le Chêne et le Roseau" by Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695)

So an oak says to a reed, "No wonder 
you hate Mother Nature. A tiny bird's 
a tremendous weight for you. Tremendous
weight. If a little breeze ripples a pool,
you have to bow your head. Me, I can 
almost touch Mount Everest. Amazing. 
Not only can I block the sun's rays, I can 
make it through the worst hurricane. Really, 
really amazing. For me, that north wind's 
just a tiny breeze. People say it's a zephyr. 
People say. I think they call it a zephyr. 
Terrific wind. Look, if your people would 
have been born in my neck of the woods, 
you wouldn't suffer so much. Believe me, 
my spread could defend you, but your 
kind comes from the wet, lowly other side 
of the wind's tracks. Nature's unjust
toward you and yours. Very, very unjust."

"Hey, I get where you're coming from," says 
the reed. "But get over it. I deal with wind 
much easier than you. I bend, I never ever 
break. Up until now, you've done ok––gotten by 
without breaking your back. But hang on!" 

Just then, a fury of a north wind was whipping up 
its breath. The oak holds tight. The reed bends. 
Le roseau plie. The wind doubles down. So bad 
that the oak is uprooted. Oak––with its head nearly 
touching the sky, feet digging into the dead.

Author of Museum of Rearranged Objects (Kelsay), as well as of five chapbooks, including Casbah and If You Spot Your Brother Floating By (Kattywompus), Judith Terzi's poems have received Pushcart and Best of the Web and Net nominations and have been read on Radio 3 of the BBC. She holds an M.A. in French Literature and taught high school French for many years as well as English and French at California State University, Los Angeles, and in Algiers, Algeria.