Concerning Wings

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 85th birthday.

Shūji Terayama
Japanese
1935 – 1983

 

When a bird flies
it uses its wings
but when you fly
what do you use?

I think I would stand at the highest point
of a building just as the sun is setting
Could I fly with Alain’s On Happiness?
Could I fly with Mozart’s Jupiter?
Could I fly with
my love for her?

Facing the distant sunset
both arms spread out
I am forever
caught in my own despair

The Keepsake

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 175th birthday.

Yone Noguchi
Japanese
1875 – 1947

 

Love faded away, the keepsake she left me is these children, three or four.
I eat, I sleep… it’s all the same today as yesterday.
The clock strikes one at midnight,
I spring up, I straighten a quilt over the sleeping children by my side.

Love faded away, true love will return to me never again…
Love faded away before I grasped her tight.
But what’s that ?—the clock goes on striking.

Love faded away, the rats in the ceiling gnaw a pillar,
My life too is bitten by a tough chap called Time…
There’s tomorrow, there’s tomorrow, things will be done tomorrow…
I ask myself, what’s that tomorrow you speak about?

The houses stand like the teeth of a comb,
I build in one of them my own nest,
And gaze at the keepsake Love left me.

Life Infinite

We present this work in honor of the Japanese holiday, Labor Thanksgiving Day.

Shinkichi Takahashi
Japanese
1901 – 1987

 

Beyond words,
this no-thingness within,
Which I’ve become.
So to remain
Only one thing’s needed:
Zen sitting.
I think, breathe with my whole body – Marvellous.
The joy’s so pure,
It’s beyond lovemaking, anything.
I can see, live anywhere, everywhere.
I need nothing, not even life.

Under the Lantern

We present this work in honor of the Japanese holiday, Autumnal Equinox Day.

Fumiko Hayashi
Japanese
1903 – 1951

 

If you give me ten cups of King of Kings to drink
I shall throw you a kiss
ah, what a pitiful waitress I am.

Outside the blue window, rain falls like drops of cut glass
under the light of the lantern
all has turned to wine.

Is Revolution the wind blowing north…?
I’ve spilled the wine
opening my red mouth over the spill on the table
I belch fire.

Shall I dance in my blue apron?
“Golden Wedding,” or “Caravan”
tonight’s dance music….

Still three more cups to go
How’m I doing? you ask
I’m just fine
although I’m a nice girl
a really nice girl
I scatter my feelings
generously like cut flowers
among petty pigs of men.
Ah, is Revolution the wind blowing north…”

So As Not to Distort

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 65th birthday.

Hiromi Itō
Japanese
b. 1955

 

I make shiratama
And take them to my man
I heat the sugar and form syrup
Put in the boiled dumplings
And cool them
I seal them tight
And take them
All the shiratama stick to the bottom
The surfaces of the shiratama are torn
Their round
Shapes are distorted
I scoop them up with a spoon
Hey!
Look!
Scoop them out
So they don’t get distorted
I love shiratama best of all
Says my man, carrying the shiratama to his mouth
He closes his eyes and shows me how good they are
I love them more than you
I watch my man
Swallowing the shiratama
And lapping up the lukewarm syrup

I shake the sealed container and wrap it in cloth
Then the two of us
Bring together our syrupy mouths
Slide the palms of our hands
Moving them in the shape of love
But
You know
I don’t want to distort
I don’t want to be left distorted
This is what I think, oh man, my man

I roll them up
Boil the shiratama, heat the syrup, then cool them
I roll into them
Heartrending hopes
Thick syrup
Smooth shiratama
My man swallows them down
Thick like saliva
Smooth like buttocks
How do they taste?

I don’t want to distort you
He also thought in his heartrending way
I have reached him
The food I secrete
Secreted deep, deep
Into the man I love

My Hovel

We present this work in honor of the Japanese holiday, Mountain Day.

Ikkyū
Japanese
1394 – 1481

 

The world before my eyes is wan and wasted just like me.
The earth is decrepit, the sky stormy, all the grass withered.
No spring breeze even at this late date,
Just winter clouds swallowing up my tiny reed hut.
Crazy Cloud is a demon in Daito’s line
But he hates the hellish bickering.
What good are old koans and faded traditions?
No use complaining any more, I’ll just rely on my inner treasures.
My real dwelling
Has no pillars
And no roof either
So rain cannot soak it
And wind cannot blow it down
Every day priests minutely examine the Dharma
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind and rain, the snow and moon.

Almost Winter

In honor of the Japanese holiday, Marine Day, we present this work by an author considered the soul of modern Japanese poetry.

Katsue Kitasono
Japanese
1902 – 1978

 

winter rain
shines on
slight moss
like on damask

I put on deer
armor
and sit in a
narrow hallway

with the passing days
thoughts are light
bright
and futile

one bitter drop
contained
as in a Chinese bowl
cold and futile there is nothing

there is nothing
I should know by now
also, no books
and no visitors