Four Poems by Gozo Yoshimasu

BOMB 16 Summer 1986
016 Summer 1986

Shiva, Shiba

The man-made lake had swallowed the whole family and is shining,
    they must be cold
Autumn leaves (rotten leaves), two, or three
“Hello . . , hello … ”
      Asleep in the backyard of a forest, the Lord Buddha of the village,
          the Lord Buddha carved in wood
 Word of which country, “Ashura, Ashura,” the voice echoing in the
          depths of the telephone receiver
“Ashura, Ashura”
“Hello . . , hello … ”
Chatter of the beasts, the monkey (the swift one), the moon right (the
       bear), afloat in the dead silence of autumn, wordless girls
Making a fire, smells making a house
To the straw roof winter comes
      “Kanta, kanta, kanta …”
The mountain depths, having been dyed lavender, is a hairy universe
      Mountain Woman passed by
            and whispered to me
     Word of which country
            Ashura … Asura
“Hello … hello … hell … ”
      The wind rings, in the dead silence of autumn
The mountain makes a fire, the smells make a house
“Oraa, oraa, oraa … ”
      “Kanta, kanta, kanta”
      Ah
      Maddening, dove the cooer
The mountain makes a fire, the daughters are absorbed in washing
          their hair
      Coming to the mountain hut and resting, Shiva? Shiba?
The man-made lake had swallowed the whole family and is shining,
          they’ve got to be cold
The god of the village is the god of the mountain, the god of the
          mountain is the god of the village
“Tatsuko, Tatsuko”
      “Kanta, kanta, kanta … ”
Soon the winter will come, the winter will come
      A beautiful wooden ship will come and dream
      The lake’s
      sinking the lake bottom
      The lake’s
      lake bottom, sink
      The lake’s
      sinking the lake bottom, the lake’s, sinking the
      fields and paddies, the lake’s, house-building,
      sink, the lake’s, sinking the underground railroad
      with a terrifying weight, the lake’s, sinking the
      underground railroad now an illusion, house-
      building, the lake’s, Tegonashi sinking, the lake’s,
      sinking the soiled old tatami, two or three of them,
      to the lake bottom, the lake’s, house-building the
      lake’s, the fields and paddies, sink, the lake’s
 
“Hello . . , hell, hell … ”
Making a fire, building a house, and soon the winter will come
“Hello . . , hell, hell … ”
 
    I was Nagisa by name, the hunters in the ancient
    days hunted so that they would find the gleaming
    eyes of wild animals hiding in the bush. I was
    watching all the time by the lake. Men’s eyes
    glistening in the landscape … . Both my father
    and my mother, who died at the same age as I am now,
    are sunken here. The name of my lover was Kagami, I
    think. Only that part is bright in my memory.
    Aglow, transparent I was … .
 
Ashura, Ashura, word of which country
The beautiful wooden ship on the lake bottom
Mountain Woman who lives in the lake passed by and whispered
“Hello . . , hello … ”
“Oraa, oraa, oraa … ”
 
    Water fabric, thread of gold
The moon has quietly come down
    The moon has come down to the country of fire
        “Kanta, kanta, kanta”
        “Oraa, oraa, oraa”
        “Ashura, Ashura … ” 

Mountain Woman, sing
The moon has come down to the lake bottom
“Hello, hello, hell” 

 

Went into a Red Wall

    Blistering hot August, a red wall reflected in my eyes. Beyond the
river, no iron bridge spanning. How do they weigh the total tonnage.
Began to pull up my, eyesight. Beyond the river, a soaring red wall,
into its inner depths a sculpture has crept and is running, I see its light.
     I see its light.
     The width of the river in the mountains is about fifty meters, the
 riverbed three meters down the bank?
     I am a surveyor, along the river, I am a surveyor.
     A flood passed over the riverbed of the river, was that last night? Or
further back yesterday morning? I talked to the grass and trees coated
by sand and soil and shining, wavering toward downstream.
     I, an operator? Am I an operator?
     Angry like a python? Fertile? I measured the height of the flood,
that passed whether last night or yesterday morning, and you, lady, are
a meter and seventy-five centimeters. I feel your hot breath, on my
back on my legs on my thighs on my chest on my spine … as if
unsheathing itself, it lifted its body, and putting its body up the banks it
left.
     Am I a lifeguard of rivers? A lifeguard? Don’t know.
     By my side stands a monument for the repose of the souls of
sweetfish, and I’m surprised by its voice.
     Going near, our voices too become whispering gentle. Going near
it, the voices of delicately gleaming small fish and fish began to be
heard. We were for a while touching, and holding, the image of a clear
stream.
     A thing of sand? A thing of sand?
     At that moment, I became low, became a hillock, became a small
voice, was touching a sweetfish and the cheek of a sweetfish, became
sand, I flowed?
     And, turning to look, the great red wall on the further bank, leaning
toward this bank, by one meter or two meters, flint fire, the mien of a
flame—, in its depths several universes, comets too, bears too, and the
 birdstone who was in my palm too, were leaping in the sky of the red
 wall.

    Koza upstream, a mysterious place where a great sheet of wall rises.

    Small fish, smallfee,
    shee, there small fish.

    August 11th.
    I went into a red wall.

 

Princess Weaver

   Teru-san! Teru-san!
   Toward the evening of a day when an autumn rain’s fierce (Must be
the forerunner of a typhoon), as if lured into the call of the mountain
depths, I took the Chûô Line, with my other half giving a reactive
momentum with a leg, stepping on the brake, shaking the car.
     A small black shadow. Fifteen to sixteen hours ago, I was handed at
the exit of the subway a handbill ” Yûbari Mine Survives,” the two
miners who were on both sides of the exit, the wavering of their
bodies, (That’s it!) with the bodies of those two remaining at the
bottom of my eyes, (time) began to flow.
     Lured into the call of the mountain depths, the autumn rain was
fierce.
     From the watershed farther inside there was the call of Daibosatsu
Pass. In the rain, when I was walking ahead imagining the shape of a
mountain that doesn’t exist in this universe, the rain struck my hood
like pebbles, and I turned into the shape of the mountain that doesn’t
exist.
     The shape of the mountain, the rain striking the hood (thin burzon).
The two stones put in my bag. Together, I got off at the station of
Ishigamimae, and on foot, went as far as the median point (attracted
by the sound of the water force), shining bridge?
   s   h   i   n   i   n   g
   , bridge
 
     Looking through the dim light, (Kumonbashi), bridge of illusory
rings, I went ahead across the (walkway) bridge. One person gave all
his body to the auxiliary brake. One stepped (on) double. And, Yûbari
men standing at the shaft entrance to go to the underground shaft, the
two faintly drew a sash in the air.
     About this time the “down” conductor’s room is almost on Blue
Plum and dyed a flower color?
    The mountain weaves.
    (Kumonbashi), stretching my hands, the railing touches my hands.
From Ishigaminomae (an unmanned station), lured by the water force
into the fierce rain, shining bridge, Kumonbashi, upstream,
downstream
I walked on the bridge, peered into the place of depth.
Shine voice.
    Staying in the middle, I don’t know why, because there was no one
looking, I jumped several times. Conjuring the faint shape of the non-
existent mountain one hundred meters below – , the rain striking my
hood.
    The autumn rain fierce,
    the mountain weaving.
    At Ishigamimae stood a mailbox (settlement box). The unmanned
station was wet in the autumn rain. Long ago, standing in the smell of
several hundred tons of lime, blue flowers, shellfish too fossils of fish
too, the Aoume Line went down the mountain bit by bit.
    Two wooden benches remained, I went up to the next station,
Futamatao, bought a can of beer, and sitting on the wooden bench
forty to fifty minutes, thinking. At that time I didn’t know.
    Ishigamimae, which was once a resting spot place a dark mountain.
    Teru-san! Teru-san!
    Teru-san! Teru-san!
    Echoing from the red wall perhaps, it’s the call from the depths of
the mountain. The voice of Princess Weaver in my memory (Teruko-
san?).
    Futamatao, tail between the thighs?
    Last night I came across a freight train, twice.
    Was that now freight? With an umbrella, who was it that came to
visit?
    Chasing the desire to go far away, with an umbrella, the person by
the track.
    Why did we get on it together. (Shimoyama-san?) there was a
wooden bench, a cliff on one side, I was at Ishigamimae like a study,
next, “up,” ah, Light (the electric train) ran in, and I was lured into it.
Looking at three girls coming in the next door, if I judged on the spot,
if those girls were gone from this station, Ishigamimae would become
quiet I should have known, but I was lured into it, and went in on the
“up” Light.
    High school freshmen just about, the three girls melted into the light
inside the car.
    Mine truck?
     On the roadbed a pebble’s voice, I looked up many times at the skirt
wet with water.
    Mine truck,
    Torokko?
    Teru-san! Teru-san!

 

Koma, Koma

   The walk, climbed, up a bushy hill, in, a dream. Receiving, a note,
that a friend, built, a new gallery, the walk, went, toward, a new,
smell. When climbing, a wooden staircase, like, the inside, of the
white envelope, I tore, the white envelope, that was a bit, wide,
(because there was no other place to return the piece to), as the skinny
arms, of the envelope, I put it in, spread, ing its arms, dancing, like
that, I climbed, up.
   The walk, climbed, up, a bushy hill, in a dream. (I would like to
have a rock-solid enormous black mountain in a dream) Someone,
whispered.
 
   My body, was, wrapped, in, a light, blood color. Myôgatani, where,
I was, walking, I’ve, already, forgotten. I was standing in a weedy,
shadow of a tree, one day, I leaned, and was, falling, into the depths of
the bamboo grass. A rabbit, using that trick, hid, bones. The figure of,
a man, was, coming, to float up faintly.
   My body, was, wrapped, in, a light, blood, color. Where, I was
walking, I’ve, already, forgotten. Has, the mountain top area, begun,
to turn color, yet (Is that Mt. Kurakake), I asked a youth, when I was
changing to the second, or the third lift. Deep inside, a ski hut, there
was a voice asking.
   (Lake Elizabeth was beautiful.)
   The walk, climbed up, the bushy hill, in, a dream. (We can’t wear a
raincoat of this coloration any more can we.) The knees, knock on, the
femoral regions. When, climbing the wooden staircase. In the volcanic
lake, where’s the lake water, the skinny arms, of the envelope, I tore
and put in, spread, their arms and dance, like that, I climbed, up.
There were also days when I noticed the smell, of an exotic country.
(I’d like to go that far drip stone) in a small voice, this seems like a
pleasure of mine alone. As in going to find small fossils, only ⅓ of the
landscape was visible from the window, I was on the New Tohoku
Line.

   The green, voice of bamboo grass, whispers. Drip, stone, drip,
stone, what, stone. At one corner of Mt. Iwate (a place like a window)
where I was, I heard, the voice. Blue-dark, gigantic, spiders, a group
of them, are heading toward the sky above Morioka. Have their
shapes, dissolved, a little. They’ve come from the Japan Sea, they’ve
come, again.

   The walk, climbed up, the bushy hill, in, a dream. Ah, I saw in a
seascape. Toward the asteroids, a rainbow, bridge, has formed, the
sea, was colored, and was, hurrying, toward the next, universe. At a
sloping area (a seat?) of a hill, a little wet, and darkened, where I was
the eyes of a beast, as if aflame, I was, staring at the landscape, whose
ending is elegant
   I touch a movie more movie-like than a movie watching a movie. A
white, sash, bell.

   My body, was, wrapped, in a light blood color. Where, I was,
walking, I’ve, already, forgotten. Honda, City, is put away, deep inside
a store, in a valley quietly, I was walking.
   Near, Mt. Kurakake, where, Ken-sa, too, walked, the second, or
the third, lift, began to clang, clang, and the switch was on, when the
mountaintop, area, began to turn color. Zen, zan, began, to echo. In
the depth, of the bush, several snakes, rabbits, lizards, mole crickets,
earthworms, snakes, rabbits, snakes.

   On a seat in the back, of a teashop (because it’s Monday) someone,
whispered. A cup of, sake, and, noodles. Had a lunch-box, with,
someone of the past.
   The walk, climbed, up, the bushy hill, in, a dream. The logs, are
wet, and it’s difficult, to climb that, round hill. From somewhere, a
voice echoed, Kooma, Kooma. With difficulty, I climb up, a word that
echoes, in my wife.

   Koma, Koma.
   (Lake Elizabeth was beautiful.)

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato.

Gozo Yoshimasu, born 1939 in Tokyo, is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry and prose, including Shuppatsu (Departure), 1964; Zuno no te (Tower of Brain), 1971; Aozora (Blue Sky), 1979; and Daibyoin Waki ni Sobietatsu Kyojyu e no Tegami (A Letter to the Tall Tree Standing Next to the Great Hospital), 1983;Yoshimasu Bozo Shishu (Complete Works of Gozo Yoshimasu), published in five volumes by Kawadeshobo-shinsha in 1978. Osiris Ishi no Kami (Osiris, God of Stone), his most recent book, was awarded the 1984 Shiseido Hanatsubaki Modern Poetry Prize. Poetry in English translation: Devil’s Wind: A Thousand Steps (Rochester, Ml: Katydid Books, Oakland University, 1980).

Gozo Yoshimasu appeared in a Festival of Japanese Poetry, bilingual 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, Alexander Liberman, art by Jeff Koons, John Baldessari, Barbara Bloom, and more. Cover art by James Nare.

Read the issue
016 Summer 1986