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  • Three Poems
  • Kyoko Selden
    Translation and English link by William Matheson

So Rain in Summer

Japanese-English Linked Poem
Summer 1977 to Spring 1978
Tokyo, Saint Louis

しまい湯をまた若い肌夏の雨day long ends I bathesee water on skin still youngso rain in summer

hot pool white wine cigarettesmoke mist kare-eda ni1

たえだえと暮れ行く蝶は来とまらずin last light failingpaling “so in night” butterflyfailing to light

shadowing of leaf on wall:flames an oak beyond the cave?

夏寒く西向くさむらひ小の月“knight turns west” shadowscold (February/April/June/September)short month: November

in pines where Keats sighs: locusts’unplanned twisted tidings lieguards leaving! raucoustowers flame the citadel!leaves on garden rocks [End Page 197]

にせ若者の心さまぎぬthe so-called Heir Apparent’sheart (he said) was agité

noon November suniris (incandescent fraud)sere to second life

土深き根の暗き凝念what sombrous deep in earth chillmediations of the roots

marble heavy nightmerge among the roots of treesa shadow people

亡者酔へ酔へ除夜の手拍子drink ghosts dance ghosts sing ghosts leaveclapping hands on New Year’s Eve

bull crashes horse screamsovation: poised picadorSaint George and dragon

月見る風情大鵬のかまへthe wrestler “Phoenix” poised asthough he viewed the flames of the moon

wind and affectionsun unfledged Sahara’s snowflutes are Samarkand

黄塵いまだ柳絮ひからずfrom west no yellow willowcotton dust yet shining springs

prisms flower rare(catastrophes of ice) ascutouts by Matisse [End Page 198]

チャペル 窓まぶし深海の巨草chapel windows daze of lightflourish of leviathan

砂丘白く幾うねりして朝となりwhite variouslyupon the dunes undulatesmorning becomes

yellow dies from red to greenhear the verbs are killing time

指を緋に夜な夜な染めて狂女王her fingers night innight out dyeing a scarletMonarch of Madness

words fail flair avail me nothing moonrise freezing midnight

波ちぎり声ちぎる燈台春の風beacon tears our voicethat tears the waves to pieceshere a wind of spring

“living eyes of secrecy”makoto no kotoba2 [End Page 199]

Sunflower Boy

To the children of the Sunflower landthe teacher said, let’s grow talllet’s grow tall like sunflowerslet’s be full of sun

the sunflower children sang songsplanted flowersplayed in the sandtumbled on the mattresseswent on an outingate lunch in the deepest shadeof tall green trees

they walked hand in handin the dazzling sunbeside the burning azaleasthey saw carp and goldfishunder the bright waterthey saw turtleson the dry rocks

the sunflower childrenchased butterfliesran after praying mantisesand green grasshopperscaught cicadascrayfish and crabsand wrestled till they sankinto the tall summer grass

at the end of the long summera sunflower childmoved to another landwhen the cool sun shoneforeignly on his new cityhe started kindergarten [End Page 200]

he learned to readhe had his turn to be the special personhe earned a good-work markhe received a gold starhe had a fifteen-minute gym periodon the concrete playground

he no longer spoke the sunflower languagehe spoke the kindergarten languagemade of dot-to-dot and coloringand construction paper

many months latersuddenly after supperhe sat on a big chairin the corner of the roomand saidin his half forgotten old language“I want to be a sunflower” [End Page 201]

Three Landscapes


Neither losing speechnor mislaying sensesnor forgetting allnor the approach of dusknor even the moment of death itselfI fearbut exposing a bodyno longer within my graspyet still recognized as mineexposing bonesno longer part of meyet still remembered as mine.The gods’ final insult to human beingsis that we can’t vanish instantlybut are made to rot and reek.Oh well, we won’t have toslowly decompose if crematedbut what to do about our bones and ashesand false teeth?I can’t hide them awaywhen you people come to pick my bones.This is a knee bone, she was very strong.That? That’s her jaw, she was a big eater.Oh stop.People here watch me and wonder when I’ll die.Occasional visitors compare mewith what they saw last time.You’re one inch more dead than last timebut you...