then by Jikkoku Osamu (そのころ / じっこくおさむ)

in a city called City
everything
broke melted
washed away
,
LOVE
EGO
and of course
WOR
DS
,
when they broke
strangely bright
it was very
beautiful
;
what didn’t melt
was
merely
st
on
e

_________________

まち と いう まち では
すべて が
つぶれて とけて
ながれて いた

LOVE が
EGO が
そして もちろん
コトバ


つぶれる とき
あやしく ひかって
とても
きれいで

とけぬ もの は
ただの
いしころ


NOTES:

The original Japanese language poem was taken from the Jikkoku Osamu Corner.

Memory of Hands by Takada Toshiko (手の記憶 / 高田敏子)

My son came by for the first time in a while
“Mom, want me to open a beer?”
“Sure, they’re not cold yet, though”
I set down one of the beers I’d picked up at the store in front of my son
And took out a corkscrew
My son picked up the corkscrew in his hands
And I watched as his hands removed the cork
Saying, “Glasses!” he jumped up
And took out two glasses
My son’s hands gave one glass to me
And I watched as they filled it with beer
Then they filled the glass in front of him
Giving a little toast
He said “Well,” threw back his glass in a gulp,
“I’m in a rush, so I’ll see you later”
“I see” After saying goodbye to my son, all I
Could think about was looking at his hands

My son’s hands were beautiful
The hands of a man just turned thirty
Young men’s hands are all beautiful
Smooth, free, strong
Holding my shoulders with his hands
He said, “Well,” and with a salute
He disappeared behind Japan’s waving flags
What did those hands do then?

I will never forget
The shape of all those hands lined up in salute
I wonder if I saw my son’s hands there among them?

No, my son’s hands did not salute
Even though they left enough time for “So long” and “See you later”
I will never forget those beautiful men’s hands
Raised in salute, as they vanished in the distance

NOTES:

Takada Toshiko (1914-1989) was a poet from Tokyo. She gained attention after publishing “In the Depths of Night’s Fresco” (夜のフラスコの底に) in the magazine New Leaves (若葉) in 1949. In 1967, her collection Wisteria (藤) won the Murou Sansei Poet Award. Her other works include Monday Poems (月曜日の詩集, 1962), Purple Flowers (むらさきの花, 1976), and Dream Hands (夢の手, 1985).

The original Japanese language poem can be found at ポエムコンシェルジュとさがす詩の世界.

Moon by Tate Takako (月 / タテタカコ)

The moon appears from behind the clouds
Children breathing softly in their sleep
The moon is born into the sky
and emits a lovely light

Mother left her memories with the tears
that overflowed from her eyes
and drifted away on the wind

When the pampas grass was growing
A tragedy took her away from me
I want her to be alive, to come back alive
I want her to catch me in her arms

The moon shines its light in the grass
On the insects’ hushed voices
The moon shines its light on my palm
Holding a small, pink sakura shell

With promises unfulfilled
My sorrow rises to the sky
As long as there is life left to live
I will live to tell my story
To tell my story

月が 雲の中から現れる
寝息をたてた子供たち
月が 生まれてきたこの空に
かわいい光を放つ

想いを託した涙の滴が
母の目から零れ落ち 零れ落ち
風に乗った

すすきのなる頃 惨劇が
あの人を連れていった
生きて 生きて帰ってほしい
その両手で抱きとめてほしい

月が 照らし出した草の根には
虫たちが声を潜めて
月が 照らし出した手のひらには
小さな薄紅の桜貝

約束を果たせないまま
悲しみは空へ昇ってゆく
生きて 生きて命ある限り
生きて 語り継ぐ
語り継ぐ

NOTES:

Tate Takako, image found at http://listen.jp/store/artist_1171035.htm

Tate Takako (b. 1978) is a singer/songwriter from Iida, Nagano prefecture. She graduated from the Kunitachi College of Music and taught music before becoming a full-time musician. In 2001, she started playing live, and in 2004 her song “Jewel” (「宝石」) was featured in the award-winning Kore-eda Hirokazu film Nobody Knows (誰も知らない), in which she also played a small role as a convenience store clerk. Her albums include Sky (そら, 2004), animals (イキモノタチ, 2007), and Harkitek or ta ayoro (2010).

Walk On Water by Oshima Takeo (水の上を歩く / 大島健夫)

Place one foot on the water, then, without letting it sink, step with the other foot
And then, without letting that foot sink, step with the first foot again
That’s all that it takes
In theory, it’s really quite simple
But when I give it a try, it’s rather difficult
Every day, I practice at the pond
But I never get any better
Sometimes I think, maybe I’m doing something wrong
Maybe there’s a better, more correct way of doing it
I wish someone would teach me how
But everyone who watches me practice just gives me vague suggestions
Like they don’t really know anything
So I tried asking a fish, Hey, what do you think I should do?
The fish looked up at me, flapping his mouth
“I don’t know, all I can do is swim
  Actually, I’m not certain you could call it swimming
   I’ve been doing it for a long time, but it feels like I’m still not moving my fins the right way
    The true path is long and endlessly deep, and I’ll probably die midway down the path
     But when the time comes, I at least want to die pushing forward”
I also tried asking a tadpole, Hey, am I doing something wrong?
Without even looking at me, the tadpole darted around my feet
“Don’t ask me, I’ve got my own problems
  They just started growing . . . my arms and legs
   But none of my friends have started growing theirs yet
    And all of the boys keep staring at my body with their perverted eyes
     I don’t know what you should do, sometimes I don’t even know myself”
And so I have no choice but to keep practicing all alone
I’m not sure why, but I feel like I’m almost there
Two days ago, yesterday, and today
It feels like I’m on the verge of grasping something miraculous
Summer comes around, and then winter again
One clear morning, I saw the fish floating dead on the surface
It looked like he was smiling
One bright moonlit night, I saw the tadpole, who had become a little frog, jumping out of the water
She waved at me, and disappeared into a thicket
Trees blossomed, fruit fell
Leaves grew thick, turned red
It’s the start of a new season
I step one foot onto the water
One step, then another
I still can’t do it
But I just know that I’ll get it right tomorrow

NOTES:

Oshima Takeo (b. 1974) is a Japanese poet from Chiba. Please visit Idazuka Makoto’s excellent poetry blog, ポエムコンシェルジュとさがす詩の世界, to see the original Japanese language poem.

Oshima Takeo, image found at http://blog.goo.ne.jp/islander-works

The Jikkoku Osamu Corner

Most of the Jikkoku Osamu poems that I have translated here at Entry No. 1 were taken from Saya Mariho’s Jikkoku Osamu Corner (じっこくおさむコーナー), which, with the permission of Jikkoku’s wife, hosts a good sampling of his poetry. Along with Akiyama Jun’s site, this is one of the only Jikkoku resources available on the internet. I hope everyone who is interested in the work of this amazing, under-read anti-war poet will take the time to visit both of these wonderful sites.

endless anger by Jikkoku Osamu

i love this angry boy!

  having screamed with all his might
    his mouth bends down into a へ
and the corners of his eyes arch up
  and look this way mysteriously
    i love those eyes like apricot seeds
jutting over his right shoulder
  is a thick sword, held up in his left hand
    is a thin piece of cut rope

spread out behind him is a sea of flame

  this spoiled child puffs out his chest
    and i can see
  both soles of his tiny feet
    through his impudently crossed legs

but i love him, i love him, i love him

you can find images of mischievous children
  in ancient iconography
    spread throughout asia
the mysterious work of NameLess stonecutters!
  carved on the pedestal here:
    died july 7th, 1924, age 9

  the same age as me,
    we were alive at the same time!

on tanabata night
  separated from your mother and father, you
    were confined within
this small boatshaped stone
  when i was in another country
    passing through flames
you were standing on the bend
  of this hill road
    listening to the wind in the pines
black birds flying behind you
  when flames were rising
    over our hometown —

your sword smashes people’s
  endless desire
    your rope releases slaves
unties sects
  to search for true freedom
    humanity’s prayer

this big dream was left
  in your little hands
    but you will never forgive
the mad dance of the adults
  who kill and are killed, who deprive and are deprived
    puppets in the shadow of their god mammon

  beirut, khorramshahr
  warsaw, kabul, phnom penh
  saigon, nanjing, hiroshima
    and our very own takamatsu
    All Utterly Demolished

i’ve come from far away
  to stand here before you
    and i can’t count the times
i’ve let out a laugh
  because soon
    i will vanish from this earth
but you
  surrounded by moss
  your pupil-less eyes
glaring at everything,
  you will always remain, unmoved

do you know —
  there is a little girl
    standing beside you,
ageless and nameless
  thousand armed goddess of mercy
    nose half broken off
whose hands that were clasped
    at her lovely breasts
    are gone along with those breasts
who is with you, listening
  eyes closed
    to the wind in the pines overhead?

today you can see very clearly,
  beneath the pine branches
    buildings lined up like graves
just beyond our hometown
   the vast black sea.
     and

in the night
  distant altair and vega
    will straight away
descend upon
  both your heads

HUMANITY SHOULD BE DESTROYED!

NOTES:

This is the angry boy (or myouou, 明王) referred to in the poem. It is also the image on the cover of Jikkoku’s 1984 poetry collection Another Experiment, or Counterpoint (「もう一つの実験または対位法」).

Special thanks goes to Yumi Hori, who cleared up several questions I had about the poem. Without her, this translation would not have been possible.

Please see the original Japanese language poem here. Several other Jikkoku poems, some of which I have translated, can also be found there.

A Couple by Amano Tadashi (二人 / 天野忠)

The little garden
of the little rented house
is filled with trees and flowers
greedily planted.
In the summer
the mosquitoes are a pain.
–They only bite me,
ow, ow,
the old woman complains.
She scratches her wrinkled arms,
–Because my blood is younger . . . .

So the old man
holds out his wiry shins
for display. –I’m getting eaten up, too.

The curious mosquitoes
take a look
and the old woman
leers at him.

小さな借家の
小さな庭に
欲張って植えた
木や草花がいっぱい。
夏が来ると
蚊がきつい。
――わたしばっかり刺されて
痒い痒いと
ばあさんがぼやく。
しわしわの腕をこすりながら
――わたしの血の方が若いから・・・・

針金のような脛を
じいさんも
ニョキッと突き出し見せる。――オレもここを喰われた

物好きな蚊
ジロリと
ばあさんは
横目で見る。