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

Hokku Poems in Four Seasons

We present this work in honor of Greenery Day.

Yosa Buson
Japanese
1716 – 1784

 

Spring

The year’s first poem done,
with smug self confidence
a haikai poet.

Longer has become the daytime;
a pheasant is fluttering
down onto the bridge.

Yearning for the Bygones

Lengthening days,
accumulating, and recalling
the days of distant past.

Slowly passing days,
with an echo heard here in a
corner of Kyoto.

The white elbow
of a priest, dozing,
in the dusk of spring.

Into a nobleman,
a fox has changed himself
early evening of spring.

The light on a candle stand
is transferred to another candle
spring twilight.

A short nap,
then awakening
this spring day has darkened.

Who is it for,
this pillow on the floor,
in the twilight of spring?

The big gateway’s heavy doors,
standing in the dusk of spring.

Hazy moonlight —
someone is standing
among the pear trees.

Blossoms on the pear tree,
lighten by the moonlight, and there
a woman is reading a letter.

Springtime rain — almost dark,
and yet today still lingers.

Springtime rain —
a little shell on a small beach,
enough to moisten it.

Springtime rain is falling,
as a child’s rag ball is soaking
wet on the house roof.

Summer

Within the quietness
of a lull in visitors’ absence,
appears the peony flower!

Peony having scattered, two
or three petals lie on one another.

The rain of May —
facing toward the big river, houses,
just two of them.

At a Place Called Kaya in Tanba

A summer river being crossed,
how pleasing,
with sandals in my hands!

The mountain stonecutter’s chisel;
being cooled in the clear water.

Grasses wet in the rain,
just after the festival cart passed by.

To my eyes how delightful
the fan of my beloved is,
in complete white.

A flying cuckoo,
over the Heian capital,
goes diagonally across the city.

Evening breeze —
water is slapping against
the legs of a blue heron.

An old well —
jumping at a mosquito,
the fish’s sound is dark.

Young bamboo trees —
at Hashimoto, the courtesan,
is she still there or not?

After having been fallen,
its image still stands —
the peony flower.

Stepping on the Eastern Slope

Wild roses in bloom —
so like a pathway in,
or toward, my home village.

With sorrow while coming upon the hill
—flowering wild roses.

Summer night ending so soon,
with on the river shallows still remains
the moon in a sliver.

Autumn

It penetrates into me;
stepping on the comb of my gone wife,
in the bedroom.

More than last year,
I now feel solitude;
this autumn twilight.

This being alone may even be a kind of happy
— in the autumn dusk.

Moon in the sky’s top,
clearly passes through this
poor town street.

This feeling of sadness —
a fishing string being blown by the autumn wind.

Winter

Let myself go to bed;
New Year’s Day is only a matter
for tomorrow.

Camphor tree roots are quietly getting wet,
in the winter rainy air.

A handsaw is sounding,
as if from a poor one,
at midnight in this winter.

Old man’s love affair;
in trying to forget it,
a winter rainfall.

In an old pond,
a straw sandal is sinking
— it is sleeting.