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


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


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

  1. Hello,
    I was suprised to come across this blog last night.
    Thank you very much for translating and introducing my poem.
    I wrote this on 2003.
    It’s a flesh joy to read your translation now.

    Oshima Takeo

    • Thank you very much for your kind words, 大島さん. I’m glad to hear I didn’t totally butcher your poem. It was a lot of fun to translate. I hope to read more of your work in the future. Take care.

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