Hagiwara Sakutaro
Translated from the Japanese by James O'Brien

FACES OF AN INVALID DEEP IN THE GROUND

Deep in the ground a face emerging,
A lonely invalid face emerging.

In the underground dark
Stems of grass begin to flicker,
A vole's nest begins to stir—
Quivering net of innumerable hairs.
From the sick and lonely earth
Of a winter solstice,
Roots of thin bamboo begin to grow,
Deeply pathetic they seem,
As if enveloped in smoke.
Deeply, deeply pathetic they seem.

In the underground dark
A lonely invalid face emerging.

 

WHY THE ONE WITHIN SEEMS A DEFORMED INVALID

I'm standing behind the window's lace curtain,
That's why my face is slightly blurred.
Spyglass in hand, I watch
Dogs and sheep all made of nickel,
And bald children strolling in a wood far-off.
That's why my eye looks somewhat clouded.
Ate too much cabbage from my plate this morning
And the window's poorly made,
Which is why my face looks distorted.
To tell the truth,
My health is almost too good.
So why do you stare at me,
Why grin so eerily?
Ah, the part below my waist—
If you're asking why that's unclear
(A somewhat silly question),
Well, I'm standing within a house
Behind this pale window and the wall,
That's why.

 

THE SWIMMER

His swimming flesh stretches aslant,
Two hands extend with regularity;
His heart limpid as a jellyfish,
His eye hearing the temple bell echo as
His soul watches the moon over water.

 

ROTTING CLAM

Though buried halfway in sand,
Its tongue still flickers back and forth.
Above the soft mollusk head
Sea and grating sand swish over and over,
Flow,
Flow gently even as in a dream.

From within flowing sand
The clam flickers its flaming tongue.
This clam's gotten quite weary,
Its soft innards seem to be rotting.
As mournful evening arrives,
The clam sits on the pale beach,
Its rotting breath flickering, flickering, flickering.

 

AFFECTION

Woman with your hard pretty teeth
That sharply bite the green of the grass—
I paint all over your face,
Woman,
With pale grass ink,
Raise your ardor to greater pitch.
Let's steal our pleasure within this thicket.
Look!
Here the bellflower shakes its head,
There the gentian waves a supple hand.
Ah, firmly I enfold your breasts
While you press me with all your strength.
Let's frolic like two snakes.
Loving you as I do,
I smear your lovely skin with pale grass juice.

 

A CASE OF MURDER

In the distant sky a pistol fires,
A pistol fires again.
My detective dons crystal clothes,
Slips through the concubine's window.
A quartz floor,
The blood flowing pallid
Between each of her fingers.
Upon this sorrowful woman's corpse
Chirps a cold katydid.

A frosty morning in early November
The detective in crystal clothes
Turned at the corner;
Autumn fountain and crossroad,
Lone detective in mourning already.

There! The rogue glides down
A marble walk distant and deserted.

back