In An Instant by Yoshihara Sachiko (ふ と / 吉原幸子)

In An Instant

Some   very important word
was on the tip of my tongue
when out of the corner of my left eye
white peonies
suddenly   unbearably
scattered   in such a tragic way
and when I turned back
along with the flower petals
just like that   the word went away
It always happens   like this
important things just   slip away
like love
and moments of beauty
and even secrets   never revealed
All around me
there are spies
so I’ve started working   on a new cipher
to hide the bodies   of my dead words

ふ と

なにか とてもだいじなことばを
急に 耐へきれないやうに
無惨な 散りかたををしたので
そのまま ことばは 行ってしまった
いつも こんなふうに
だいじなものは 去ってゆく
何の秘密も 明かさぬままに
さうして そこらぢゅうに
わたしはまた 暗号をつくりはじめる
ことばたちの なきがらをかくして

Yoshihara Sachiko (1932-2002) was a major 20th-century Japanese poet. I first discovered her voice several years ago through nine of her poems that were translated by James Kirkup in Modern Japanese Poetry (1978). Some of her poems have also appeared in other Japanese poetry anthologies, including Women Poets of Japan (1977), translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Atsumi.

Yoshihara Sachiko graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1956 with a degree in French literature. In 1964, her first book of poetry, Childhood Litany (幼年連祷), was published. Other collections include Fish, Dogs, Girls (魚たち・犬たち・少女たち, 1975), The Day I Saw the Blackbird (ブラックバードを見た日, 1986), and Luminescence (発光, 1995).


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