Poetry / June 2017 (Issue 36: Writing Japan)

Ten Poems

by Bokusui Wakayama (1885-1928), translated into English by Gregory Dunne and Goro Takano

01: 天(あま)つ日にひかりかぎろひこまやかに羽根ふるはせて啼く雲雀(ひばり)見ゆ

                                       Glimmering in sunlight
                                       while sometimes shadowed
                                       in the haze of heat,
                                       with a slight tremor
                                       in its wings, a lark sings

02: 麦ばたの垂り穂のうへにかげ見えて電車過ぎゆく池袋村

                                       A shadow comes into view
                                       over the drooping ears
                                       of wheat fields and,
                                       through the Ikebukuro village,
                                       a steam train goes by

03: それほどにうまきかと人のとひたらばなんと答へむこの酒の味

                                       How should I answer
                                       if someone asks
                                       why I am so
                                       out of my mind with it—
                                       this exquisite flavor, sake

04: 津の国の伊丹の里ゆはるばると白雪来るその酒来る

                                       All the way from a brewer
                                       in the remote Itami village
                                       it reaches me at last
                                       the grand brand "White Snow,"
                                       the gem of the Tsu region

05: 昼の浜思ひほほけしまろび寝にづんと響きて白浪あがる

                                       sprawling on the lonely shore
                                       in the afternoon,
                                       I'm struck with a dull thud,
                                       and foamy white waves rise

06: 飛ぶ、飛ぶ、とび魚がとぶ、朝日のなかをあはれかなしきこころとなり

                                       Hopping here, springing there, flying fish flit
                                       only to become sadly
                                       aware in the morning sun

07: われを恨み罵りしはてに噤(つぐ)みたる母のくちもとにひとつの歯もなき

                                       Calling me names
                                       showing her wrath
                                       against my way
                                       mother shuts her mouth—
                                       no more teeth left

08: ゆく水のとまらぬこころ持つといへどをりをり濁る貧しさゆゑに

                                       Although I believe
                                       my mind is passing always
                                       like unstoppable waters
                                       it muddies sometimes
                                       because of this poverty

09: かんがへて飲みはじめたる一合の二合の酒の夏のゆふぐれ

                                       After much thought
                                       I start drinking
                                       one bottle of sake and
                                       cannot stop having the second
                                       when the summer dusk falls

10: 行(ゆ)き行くと冬日(ふゆび)の原にたちとまり耳をすませば日の光きこゆ

                                       I walk and walk
                                       and make a brief pause
                                       on a winter field—strain
                                       to hear something
                                       when sunshine is heard
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