Middle of the Night by Yamanokuchi Baku (深夜/山之口獏)

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.

* * *

これをたのむと言いながら
風呂敷包にくるんで来たものを
そこにころがせてみると
質屋はかぶりを横に振ったのだ
なんとかならぬかとたのんでみるのだが
質屋はかぶりをまた振って
おあずかりいたしかねるとのことなのだ
なんとなからぬものかと更にたのんでみると
質屋はかぶりを振り振りして
いきものなんてのはどうにも
おあずかりいたしかねると言うのだ
死んではこまるので
お願いに来たのだと言うと
いきものなんぞおあずかりしたのでは
餌代にかかって
商売にならぬと来たのだ
そこでどうやらぼくの眼がさめた
明りをつけると
いましがたそこに
風呂敷包からころがり出たばかりの
娘に女房が
寝ころんでいるのだ

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Sardines to Tuna by Yamanokuchi Baku (鮪に鰯 / 山之口貘)

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

NOTES:

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.