N I S H I W A K I J U N Z A B U R Ô
Translated by Hosea Hirata
Let us go
humming a tune,
putting on our sneakers.
The gentle lady of Itabashi1
-- the edge of her kimono
-- clouds, golden
-- green temple roof tiles.
Winds of countless years
-- through a weir
darkening . . .
At such dusk
a trailing mist
-- a golden
endless ocean of wheat.
Within its murmur
-- so short.
In the shallow water of
the curving Sumida River at Toda,2
the shadows of white chimneys quiver.
I listen among the grass on this riverbank:
on the sparrow-peas3 and sour-leaves4
the rouge of a water spirit remains.
There are no violets, though.
Girls have wiped them out.
Capital-birds5 do not come this far either.
A letter written in pale asagi ink
is lying abandoned.
Darrell6 is no longer in Paris,
gone to India to learn magic.
Summer hath come.
The undergarments of those suffering denizens
of the banks of this Ara River
are put out to dry in the sun.
The colors of ancient lingerie have also faded.
the blossoms of four-hand-cherry8 or three-leaf-azalea9 also have
become a mere memory inside a traveler's hat.
If one goes to Yoshino10,
bean pods and cloths sway with the music
from an arrowroot flute.
What about the Pascal illness
of a nun showing us around,
tilting her head slightly?
Her head is shaven violet.
The monkey of Tsubosaka11,
under the evening sun,
on the red clay garden
with a broom
draws Pythagoras' dual circles
and laments over the spheres of love and hatred.
-- for humans, ghosts of poppy flowers . . .
Even a young fern
grows large leaves.
A beggar curses at
the impermanence of nature.
Having fallen onto this green world
his lips turn green,
his teeth grow whiter.
Only the twilight remains in humans.
the longings of one thousand years
in the voices of evening-cicadas.
is merely a history of twilight.
The sound of footsteps --
a carpenter following a bright evening star.
The sound of a water-wagtail
beating a rock with its tail
The sorrowful sorrowful
heart longing for a woman
-- the murmur of a stream.
Thinking about a man
-- wanting to bear a child.
Within the darkness of people
drunk with the harvest sake,
within the light
of a hazelnut,
my lover's heart
Her embarrassed heart
-- so feminine
-- the movement of a fetus
of a water-sprite12.
Such joy joy
Autumn's joy joy
A bulbul's joy
flying across a cobalt-blue sky
dropping a white liquefied sweet acorn.
That sound of my home village
-- the sound of a departing man
-- the sound of mountains
-- the sound of a bittersweet seed
embedded in the skin of an akebi-fruit
now being spat out of a tongue sticking out.
Nostalgia for the departing one13:
into the mountain
where monkeys cry
a man gets lost
looking for a frostbitten yellow chrysanthemum
in a bamboo grove.
The stone marker
in Akahito's14 village is also . . .
one's life destined to die tomorrow is also . . .
the murmur of tears
-- the murmur of autumn geese
-- a tale of flowering fortunes15 . . .
I am again using the village dialect.
Within the darkness of seeds
in a crooked vine pod
in the field where colors have died away,
remains the human sap sweet and sour.
licking oil that collects under a duck's wing
wait for the fish to close its eyes.
One summer day, I ate vinegary jelly noodles at Sakamoto.
Ants are still crawling in the dream of that day.
I must announce my departure
from the human language.
Where the hell is she coming back from?
-- a dame wearing splashed-pattern Japanese pants and long boots,
riding a bike on a shortcut path through a chestnut grove.
Does she have a voice superior
to a mermaid's sigh?
When the tapestry curtain
hanging over the horizon
what kind of comedy awaits us?
The Merry Devil of Edmonton?
As I step into the entrance,
inside, on a stone board in the nocturnal darkness
a goddess drawn with white lines of chalk,
her bellybutton exposed,
offering a white goblet.
the meeting of island gods
speaking Greek dialects.
It's about the masque
for the Osiris festival this spring:
“Let us expel flutes.
Let us use platinum harps only.”
I am bored with human words.
Let me just use gods' language.
The sound of an apple slightly touching the table.
The sound of a spoon falling onto the carpet.
The sound of a plum rolling into the bush of wild vines.
The sound of coins
of the sound within a sound within a sound.
The sound of an eggplant chafing against an empty can
in a beggar's bag.
How about the sound of a lotus flower opening?
“Oh, way too townsman-esque . . .”
A gudgeon in the dirt with its eyes wide open
is waiting for larks to arrive,
waiting for sorrels to blossom again on the riverbanks.
Oh, I must go somewhere, eh?
Let us open the window.
Let us sing a departing song
with a small carp and sake. . .
back to issue one
1 A district in Tokyo.
2 A city in Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo.
3 Suzumenoendou (Vicia hirsute), literally translated.
4 Suiba (Rumex acetosa), literally translated.
5 Miyakodori (hooded gull), literally translated.
6 Larry Darrell: the protagonist of W. Somerset Maugham's novel The Razor's Edge.
7 The site of an ancient capital, now Nara Prefecture.
8 Shidezakura (Korean juneberry), literally translated.
9 Mitsubatsutsuji (Rhododendron dilatatum), literally translated.
10 A district in Nara, famed for its cherry blossoms since antiquity.
11 A mountainous district in Nara.
12 Kappa: a supernatural amphibious creature.
13 “Departing” (saru) is homophonous with “monkey” (saru).
14 Literally, “Red Man.” It may refer to the Manyô poet, Yamabe no Akahito.
15 Eiga no monogatari : It may refer to Eiga monogatari (A Tale of Flowering Fortunes: Annals of Japanese Aristocratic Life in the Heian Period), written in the early 11th century.
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