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  • Two Poems
  • Takara Ben (bio)
    Translated by Katsunori Yamazato and Frank Stewart

Cape Kyan is the southernmost tip of Okinawa Island, where some of the most desperate fighting occurred in the last days of the Battle of Okinawa. Fearing capture by American troops, many civilians jumped to their deaths from the cliffs. A monument to peace and to the souls of those who perished now stands on the cape.

CAPE KYAN

By car I reach Cape Kyan, A place of red earth, Of infertile soil, Where the farmers With their hoes nevertheless Chop beautifully shaped furrows.

The sea below Is transparent blue. The waves pound the cliff, Wearing away rock already weary And crumbling. And bones Of a fossilized mammoth

Bake in the relentless sun. On the rocky cliff the yellow Tsuwabuki flowers wave At the year’s first sunrise. They hurt my eyes. The grasses Spread a green shroud

Over the blood-soaked earth. In the intense light the sculpture To Peace—through its hollow circle, Across the small stone sphere, [End Page 184]

You gaze intently southward, Through an eternal absence.

We dedicate a tsuwabuki flower And its evergreen leaves And pray, as if murmuring To a lover, our palms together, Rubbing away at the resentment, At the sadness, and anger

Until they sink one after the next Deep inside us At Cape Kyan, Like the sea Like the waves that growl From the ocean’s abyss, we pray

As if pulling the last trigger At Cape Kyan.

AN ANCIENT BANYAN

Today through a breach in the encircling reef the son who departs dreaming of joining a revolution in a northern city someday will return on the tide— the son who renounced a village that still believes in the spirit world and the gods. In the same village, the mother never gives up waiting.

In rainy May and June, harvesting sweet potato leaves she told him as a child of the kijimunā, mischievous tree spirits. But not of her own dreams, folded in the deep lines of her brow. They will not be fulfilled by a revolution, even the one her wayward son thinks is worth dying for—

But the ancient mother has pleaded for the son to call or write from time to time. [End Page 185] She has no telephone in her house. If a call comes to the village store she rushes from home.

Whenever he would call, she saw the image of her son beyond the black receiver. But calls are less frequent. Her feet are weak. This evening, a shout from a neighbor comes.

A call is for her. On shaking legs, she stumbles along the stone path, head throbbing, the banyans creaking louder in the wind, a coming storm —an ominous sign.

Out of breath, she imagines him on the other side of the receiver, hears his voice: Mother, this year,like last, I cannot come home. The dreams of the woman in the storm blow away, her white hair undone. [End Page 186]

Takara Ben

Takara Ben was born in 1949 in Tamagusuku, Okinawa. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Shizuoka University and attended graduate school in the Philippines. His first poetry collection was published in 1979. Since then, he has published several books of criticism and poetry, including Misaki (1984), and is the recipient of numerous Okinawan literary awards.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-943x
Print ISSN
1045-7909
Pages
pp. 184-186
Launched on MUSE
2011-06-29
Open Access
No
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