River

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.

12-15 Tanikawa
Shuntaro Tanikawa
Japanese
b. 1931

Mother,
Why is the river laughing?
Why, because the sun is tickling the river

Mother,
Why is the river singing?
Because the skylark praised the river’s voice

Mother,
Why is the river cold?
It remembers being once loved by the snow.

Mother,
How old is the river?
It’s the same age as the forever young
springtime.

Mother,
Why does the river never rest?
Well, you see it’s because the mother sea
Is waiting for the river to come home.

I’ve Seen Fuji

We present this work in honor of the 70th anniversary of the poet’s death.

06-28 Hayashi
Fumiko Hayashi
Japanese
1903 – 1951

 

I’ve seen Fuji
I’ve seen Mount Fuji
there was no red snow
so I need not praise Fuji as a fine mountain.

I’m not going to lose out to such a mountain
many times I’ve thought that,
seeing its reflection in the train window,
the heart of this peaked mountain
threatens my broken life
and looks down coldly on my eyes.

I’ve seen Fuji,
I’ve seen Mount Fuji
Birds!
Fly across that mountain from dome to peak
with your crimson mouths, give a scornful laugh
Wind!
Fuji is a great sorrowful palace of snow,
blow and rage
Mount Fuji is the symbol of Japan
it’s a sphinx
a thick, dream-like nostalgia
a great, sorrowful palace of snow where demons live.

Look at Fuji,
Look at Mount Fuji
in your form painted by Hokusai
I have seen your youthful spark.

But now you’re an old broken-down grave mound
always you turn your glaring eyes to the sky
why do you flee from the murky snow?

Birds, wind
rap on Mount Fuji’s shoulder
so bright and still
it’s not a silver citadel
it’s a great, sorrowful palace of snow that hides misfortune.

Mount Fuji!
Here stands a lone woman who does not lower her head to you
here is a woman laughing scornfully at you.

Mount Fuji, Fuji
your passion like rustling fire
howls and roars
until you knock her stubborn head down
I shall wait, happily whistling.

The Street Fair

Sagawa Chika
Japanese
1911 – 1936

 

A cloud has collapsed on the pavement
Like the horse’s white struggle for air

Night, screaming and shouting into the darkness
Arrives with the intention of murdering time

Wearing a mask plated with light beams
Lining up single-file from the window

People moan in their dreams
And fall from sleep to an even deeper sleep

There, a stem that has gone pale
Like an exhausted despair

Supports the tall sky
An empty city with neither roads nor stars

My thinking is to escape
That pitch-black metal house

Steal away the glimmer of pistons
And smoldering embers of noise

Retreat into a shallow ocean
Collide, get battered to the ground