Bones by Nakahara Chūya (骨 / 中原中也)

Bones

Come see what I’ve found, my very own bones,
that when alive were full of worries,
but now are shorn of their filthy flesh,
washed white by the rain,
sticking out of the ground, my splintered bones.

But they aren’t glistening,
it’s only an illusion of white.
Having soaked in the rain,
been blown about by the wind,
they reflect the sky in fractures.

It’s strange to think that
when they were alive,
these bones sat
in crowded restaurants
and ate boiled honeywort.

Come see what I’ve found, my very own bones —
and yet I’m looking at them? How bizarre.
Was my soul left to linger
so that I could return to my bones
and see them for myself?

Beside the little river in my hometown,
standing in the dead grass,
my bones — and yet I’m looking at them?
They’re as tall as a signpost
my white, white bones, splintered in the ground.

ホラホラ、これが僕の骨だ、
生きてゐた時の苦労にみちた
あのけがらはしい肉を破つて、
しらじらと雨に洗はれ、
ヌックと出た、骨の尖(さき)。

それは光沢もない、
ただいたづらにしらじらと、
雨を吸収する、
風に吹かれる、
幾分空を反映する。

生きてゐた時に、
これが食堂の雑踏の中に、
坐つてゐたこともある、
みつばのおしたしを食つたこともある、
と思へばなんとも可笑(をか)しい。

ホラホラ、これが僕の骨――
見てゐるのは僕? 可笑しなことだ。
霊魂はあとに残つて、
また骨の処にやつて来て、
見てゐるのかしら?

故郷(ふるさと)の小川のへりに、
半ばは枯れた草に立つて、
見てゐるのは、――僕?
恰度(ちやうど)立札ほどの高さに、
骨はしらじらととんがつてゐる。

NOTES:

Nakahara Chūya (1907-1937) was a great 20th century Japanese poet. Many of his poems have been translated into English, but it looks like all of the translated volumes of his work are currently out of print.

Folk singer Tomokawa Kazuki, a favorite of mine, has used many of Nakahara Chūya’s poems as song lyrics.

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