Will you take these, I asked,
handing over the package I had wrapped.
The pawnshop dealer opened it up
and shook his head at me.
I asked, Is there anything you could do,
but he just shook his head again.
There’s no way I can accept these.
I kept at it late into the night.
He just shook his head every time,
saying, Ask all you want,
but I can’t accept anything living.
I’d really hate to see them die,
so I’ve come to plead with you, I said,
and he replied, If I accepted living things,
there’s the cost to feed them,
it’s not good business.
And that’s when I opened my heavy eyes.
I turn on the light,
and there it is from a moment ago,
the package, just opened, and inside,
my wife and daughter
lying in a heap.
* * *
I felt like eating some tuna sashimi
When my wife said it looks like human flesh
And after that I couldn’t help but see it as human, too
But I had been dreaming about tuna sashimi
So, in a fit of anger, I said
It’s dead, so I’ll eat it if I damn well please
My wife got upset and turned away
But husbands and wives are only tuna
Everyone on the earth is tuna
Tuna hate atomic bombs
And are also threatened by hydrogen bombs
They are living in the modern world in a fit of anger
One day, I looked at my plate
And said, It’s covered in the ashes of Bikini
My wife turned around her chopsticks
And poked at the head of the burned tuna
It’s just ash from the grill, she murmured
Yamanokuchi Baku (1903-1963) was the pen name of Yamaguchi Jusaburo (山口重三郎). He is the most famous poet from Okinawa. He moved to Tokyo in 1922 and lived there most of his life. He also wrote stories, such as “Mr. Saito from Heaven Building,” which was translated in Southern Exposure: Modern Japanese Literature from Okinawa, edited by Michael Molasky and Steve Rabson (January 4, 2000). The blog One Lost Sheep also has a translation of Yamanokuchi’s poem “A Conversation” as well as his explanation for writing it.
The poem here at Entry No. 1 was found at ポエムコンシェルジュとさがす詩の世界.