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  • Four Poems
  • Ayukawa Nobuo (bio)
    Translated by Shogo Oketani (bio) and Leza Lowitz (bio)

The Soldier'S Song

After the harvest, how desolate this world looks.From the words of the impotent sunthat rises from one side and sets in another,I learned that it's not only the worldthat ends its life this way.Death does not hurry.Still, now is the season when flesh and bonesturn transparent forever.You, soldiers who came from the empire of the air,who crossed a river of blood, pushing your criminal cannons…Praying in vain to forget old loves and new hatreds,I too am one of those destined for defeat.I too am a soldier who tried to value the muzzle of a rifle,who thought of myself before anything else.Yes, and—I will not dream of sleepingwhile holding my kneesin a tent that slowly rips.I will not allow the army to graduallyretreat along a false history.Don't try to forgive me!My thin fingers have joints that bend in every direction.My rifle is ready only formyself, not for the defenseof some country's borders.I, who don't believe in victory,have been longing for this desolate landfor a very long time.A place where neither hope nor desire can find a place to settlebeyond where past or future can roam,where the wolf's shadow does not exist—far away from any capital,a place never drawn on any map. [End Page 109]

Oh, how can a soul heading toward this vast, desolate landbelieve in defeat?You, soldiers who drink the water of lives past,who put your mouths on empty canteens in the dry, brown wind,you no longer have to burn down tenacious villagesor shoot those who resist on beaches or in jungles:Your mission,the harvest of death,is over—so extinguish your magnificent noon.You,soldiers who roam ghost-like in the evening,drifting bones exposed in their whiteness—nameless nutsharder than silencepop open from places in the dark sky you've never been toand are shot down into the black April groundwhere they wait for rain.Yes, but—I don't need the sight of woods, fields, or picturesque towns.I shall go on with this chain wrapped around my mind.My immense solitude will stretch from this groundto that horizon.Whenever dry branches move overhead andthe cold air touches me, I shall go on standing,loneliness pouring down like shrapnel.I'll throw away the sun, soiled by human sorrow,that falls into the blood-coughing cavebetween a throat without a songand a chest without a sovereign.I shall go to the end of this desolate land,I shall continue on forever…

Even if all the borders are closed up ahead,even if an intense coldsoaks a mind whose magazinehas been emptied, even ifevery breath I take is frozen—Yes, I shall go on forever.I, who don't believe in victory,how can I believe in defeat?No matter who you are,don't try to forgive me!

(1953) [End Page 110]

At the Racetrack

On Sunday,when the weather report is more important than the international   news,a hundred thousand people rush through the narrow racetrack gateto see the much-hyped four-year-old thoroughbreds.

From high up in the bleachers,look at the light-green field,the beautiful curve of the racetrack.Look at the amazingly transparent dusty sky,the surging crowd that has somehowmanaged to reach the fence.Based on this brief image,let's change our uglinessinto the shapeof a racetrack.

More than anything else,let's focus on those smart, strong legs.The flying horse,the jumping horse—those blue, red, yellow, and whitemessengers of fate.Ultimately, our hopeswill fly and jumpaccording to how the reins are controlled.

Why, then, do people feel so carefreeafter having bought only one ticket?We like to believe in good omens,though we have nothing against scientific thinking.Belief in bloodlines is good, and it's...


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pp. 109-118
Launched on MUSE
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