Four Poems by Kazuko Shiraishi

BOMB 16 Summer 1986
016 Summer 1986

My Tokyo

like the Lord Buddha
almost sitting in this city
I am now    being conceived of October’s tedium

my dear girlfriend who walks about nude
in a New York loft
hysterically    vivaciously
you will again snake around Masuo’s neck
and beg for kisses
I want to tear that skinny coquettish white nakedness
off from the frame and touch it
it will be very white    chalk-white
a sea of desolate solids    or
it must be a waterfall of plaster dirt
that when you touch it falls in flakes
the fat pants of the Italian who puts you in a laundry bag and carries it
    on his shoulder to the washing place
are visible
the cans of the cheap beer he treats you to
roll empty in the street-floor bar    and like rats
they squeal    crying
this is America    America’s hungry

my closemouthed October
this concrete sullenness
prowls my Tokyo
the bothersome phony tears and brownnosing of phony mankind
that runs around aimlessly    overflow
from the jukebox    and then
turn into giant shoals of sardines    emit evil smells
and flow toward artistic poetic thoughts    usual
academic autumn
to all
that    saying bye-bye
I enter    as I haven’t done for a long time
my interior canal
or infiltrate my interior city
at this city’s entrance    at the end of summer
I met a single individual
Amenhotep (king of ancient Egypt)
he’s a nameless youth    a modern bus conductor
a butcher    racer    poet    revolutionary    other
he’s all the rains    what is not all    or ancient    five thousand years ago
Egypt
its king    the eagle that is its amulet    the intestines of newly born
    crocodiles that become its food
infants’ brains
unguents for rituals    pliant dress of hatred    time
what are the parts of these    and their whole
I held hands with a moment of him    Amenhotep
who becomes visible and invisible in this chaos
and plunged    into a season of personal performances
about that time
there was the noise of a subway running    at the bottom of my city
    the womb    again    on the stage
drums and bass sounding    Sandra started her dance
Sandra who’s all black isn’t Salome
a beautiful lesbian black    middle class
a sweet    lascivious housewife    a go-go dancer
a black Santa Maria who turned her husband
into a pale shark    a castrated Don Juan

my starting to take the subway
that was my first encounter with Henry Miller
the chamber pot    newspapers    old letters    chairs    milk
in every piece of furniture and food    I saw
his drinking water-    cell-    rag-like
life
I’m still a regular user of the subway
I love the subway    almost as long as
coitus    my subway
is no longer iron    a soft flesh shape
a ghost of civilization    a cradle of thought    now
in this city    the subway is
the innermost    stomach of meditation
on its ulcer    mankind that settled in the city
was clinging    somewhat half-asleep half-awake    incessantly
spitting out foam from its mouth    not words
not roars    not pleadings    neither smiles
nor words of love    nor satisfaction    nor battles
but    foam

at the Club “so what”
one o’clock at night    Max Roach beats his drums
why is he    handsome
why do his drums appeal to me lyrically
again    awfully fierce rain of sounds at a technical extreme
there the people became numb    and the small cosmos
of his music that was played    squashed flat
people’s lazy spawning

My Tokyo
this city    almost
our    womb
I stood    at its gate
with Amenhotep    and we kissed
then    the rain began    and then
almost through the duration of linkage    we died or had coitus
dying for five thousand years    and being born for five thousand years
yawning for five thousand years    and continuing to laugh for five
    thousand years    that will be more than love

everything    frogs    eggs    jam    a piece of
blue sky    writing paper    records    flies too
(Let’s dive between the sheets)
that’s the password in our city
someone    in solitude    dove with a dead cat
someone    too handsome a man
shattered the mirror    grabbed with all his strength the penis of
    himself that was on the other side    and fainted
and somebody else    incessantly afraid
of his delicate brain and body    eating catnip
wailing    cowered on the sheets
two young leopards    these men
quietly embrace each other    in the deep woods of their yearning
those beautiful monkey women    in each other’s secret rooms
were casting rainbows of caresses    like the glow of morning
about that time
my personal performances continued    rapidly     sullenly
from October to December    during which time
I was in the spider’s web of aphasia    acute ecstasy    idiotic
    philosophizing
where my many selves became the food of the spider
uttered sloppy cries    and were captured
one    of my selves
escaped    took the subway    and still
tried to do some music
this may not be love    it may merely be
the greetings of the season
but

something was musicked
my own self    smeared
on the already new melody    and I hear
myself slapping my tail with the fierceness of a crocodile of hatred
but who is it    getting thrashed by this tail
who is this soul being called into this music

Ah
at the terminal I see Joe who’s turned into a ghost
he’s been already crushed beneath the sexual roller
and has become gray and a shadow
given up even by the last drop of the storage of life
is he reddish brown iron sand    chased into a lazy desert
tangled by a viper roller
the limbs of his will gradually taken by the spider
and rusting on the side of delayed time    he’s now
about to lower the last curtain

when I    too
am stirring my hot will in the ashes
to clearly give a burial    to my city

through many layers of fogs of premonitions
I faintly heard God’s pain
it    suddenly became a fiery pain
now    for the first time
I see God entire fall in a thunderbolt    and in a roar
becoming hot right next to me
almost like eternity    it’s momentary
half ill and wounded    lying    this
in the form of a feeble traveler

my city is
now far    in the distance
already a stranger’s face
its concrete head    drooping
and sleeping    an aimless sleep

 

Gust

one day    suddenly    it happens
the sea    calm till now    stirs
the moment whitecaps rise    the wind stands up
just like    an invisible transparent rock-cliff
clinging to the belly of the rock-mountain the white houses
the olives    the windows    the doors
abruptly    it slaps them    the inside of the house too
the laundry outside too    blows it away
even the stones of the rock-mountain    it smashes    chisels
about to roll them away but
the spikey thorns    the crouching olive trees    defend them
    cover them
hair raised    being pushed    backward
barely holding their ground    the people    in their houses
like stones    keep silent    wait    for hours on end
until the wild one    the rock-cliff-like wind
that roaring phewwwww phewwww    torments this rock-mountain
and threatens
goes away

 

Yellow Lake

there you can fish    tasteful fish
come up on the table    but
the lake is yellow    and doesn’t show its depths
the Indians living by the lake
don’t show their depths either
whether fish live    in their eyes
or tasteful spirits are singing    boiling their hatreds
the depths of their eyes are dark    and I can’t see anything
by the yellow lake
live those who don’t show themselves on the table

 

Uluru

I don’t know it’s the beginning or the end of the world
but in Uluru there’s a lizard
an ancient rock-mountain which    several hundred millions of years
    ago perhaps when the sea had an erection
acquired its red form
can now    be seen    by rolling up the curtain of the universe
toward the end of the Earth’s skirt
there    it’s a desert
though you can’t see them    there are the aborigines
since tens of thousands of years ago    a lizard
I don’t know his name is solitude or timelessness
but to be alive    is a moment’s eternity
so says    this tiny sacred lecher
pronouncing Uluru    Ulururu    deep in its throat
thought crashes into the sea    and the stars fly ultra-speed
in an upside direction through the sky where they have yet to fall
in the wrinkles of the Universe the Galaxy or the Phalaxy is just
the West Coast    where the spangling waves splash    but there
no one    sees anyone surfing
is this Earth where ten thousand years ago
poetry lived in Uluru
or 1980 years from now when
the spangling comet approaches the earth

Translations by Hiroaki Sato.


Kazuko Shiraishi, born 1931 in Vancouver, BC, she was taken to Japan by her family just prior to World War ll. Her early involvement was with the avant-garde magazine VOU. Later she became interested in modern jazz, and increasingly she laid emphasis on performance. She has published 15 books of poetry in Japanese including: Seinaru Inja no Kisetsu (Seasons of the Sacred Lecher), 1970; Iso no Canoe, Mirai e Modoru (A Canoe Returns to the Future), 1978; Sunzoku (Sand Clan), 1982; and Taiyo o Susuru Momotachi (Those Who Sip the Sun), 1984. Over the years, she has won numerous literary awards and prizes. Books in English translation include: Seasons of the Sacred Lust: The Selected Poems of Kazuko Shiraishi ed. and intro. Kenneth Rexroth (New York: New Directions,1978). Individual poems have appeared in many anthologies, including: New Writing in Japan ed. Yukio Mishima and Geffrey Bownas (Harmondsworth, England; Penguin Books, 1972); Ten Japanese Poets, trans. Hiroaki Sato (Granite Publications, 1973).

Kazuko Shiraishi appeared in a Festival of Japanese Poetry, bi-lingual reading, sponsored by the Committee for International Poetry in November 1985 at Cooper Union. BOMB would like to thank the Committee for their aid in assembling this material for the Contemporary Japanese Poetry section of this issue.

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Originally published in

BOMB 16, Summer 1986

Linda Hunt by Vincent Caristi & Craig Gholson, Alexander Liberman, art by Jeff Koons, John Baldessari, Barbara Bloom, and more. Cover art by James Nare.

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016 Summer 1986