Yuka Tsukagoshi

MUSIC

Rain keeps falling on the mud-colored river
(Assuming the backdrop takes light and dark alike)
Raindrops keep falling from the edge of the rock roof
Hitting my arm
To the magnificent music
Of the rain
And the swollen river before my eyes
Inch by inch the sound of my arm
Floats silently
As if darkness swallowed a secret now gradually wandering

The skin peels
A gray birth swirls
(No    I don’t believe that)
A drop tearing away from my pulse
Emits light like a peach – Is it because
It seals a memory of an evening shower?
(Conspiracy of meat    flood of oils)

Last summer
Boys were jumping into you    my river
You couldn’t adjust to the sudden scent of sea
The partial intrusion
And just ran away timidly
Now you only accept the rain, is that what you’re saying?
Loosely trembling body, a lolling tongue
Dig deeper and deeper    No blood comes out    Just mud
Carrying a roaring voice
That sounds like licking the trail of a crowd
The river dilutes itself
In decent brown

Bones
Gradually
Come off
Without ascending or descending
The earth
Given its shape at last
Waits for the rain to come many years later

 

 

 

 

 

SILKWORM

I think of a silkworm
I killed a long time ago
Before I could find out which side was its face
It died, leaking a liquid the color of mulberry leaves out of its body
What did I do with it after that—
Bury it?
Just leave it there?
Despite not knowing which side was its face

Déjà vu

My boss Mr. Tanaka
Quickly enters names in a spread sheet with work shifts
Open on his desktop
Small square spaces
As if he’s putting a silkworm in each one
Now I take myself out of my body
And crumple myself up into a little ball

“We never talk about us.”
“What?”
“We never talk about us.”
“What?”
Someone forcibly covers my ears

Wooden boxes are hung from the ceiling
In those
Countless segmented tiny square chambers
My aunt throws curled-up silkworms

It’s not so bad to sniff the mixed smell of
Those wooden boxes    dust
Mulberry trees
And cocoons
Smelling like my aunt
In wooden buildings
Hung here and there
The silkworms are crammed in
Like residents in an apartment building

Odd toys they are
For me, mulberry leaves
And the pinky-finger-like silkworms that eat them
Nihonhei no tameni ianfu toshite kyousei sareru
“Be forced to serve as comfort women”
While I fixated on the dictionary example
In Excel on Mr. Tanaka’s computer
Five meters away from me
My silkworm lay around
Bite your bottom lip to pronounce the “f” of “forced”
On your ripe and juicy hindsight
On your dried and center-chapped hindsight
Please, please do bite!
Did you make a habit of
Pretending you don’t listen?

All right, let’s go
I murmur
Having never asked
“Silkworms will
Turn to cocoons
And you spin them into thread
And then what?”

 

 

 

 

WHEN CLOUDS LOOK LIKE SCRAMBLED EGGS

The day when clouds look like scrambled eggs
The leaves, no matter how complex
Won’t cover the sky
Magnified like thousands of sunbeams
Reflecting on the surface of the ocean

I just can’t draw the Statue of Liberty
“What was it she held in her hand?”
The street lights start running
To the next station
To the next town
With discreet smoothness
Like fish bones placed on a plate

A waitress starts playing the piano in a café
In candlelight melted under the weight of the night
She hunches over the score
Yes, exactly the way
She cooked meat five minutes ago

I leave the café
Leaving a paper napkin covered with failed sketches
On the table
Together with the quivering coffee cup
And a one-dollar bill

Slightly lighter darkness swallows me at once

The sketches remain on the table
Even after the song of light hollowed out is finished
They will merge with thin layers of time
Then be lost
Before she finally picks up the tip

Shops lined up in front of the station
Whisper to look through the hole that lies ahead
Like the thin eye of a cat

A rainbow
That looked like a big log
Pierced the buildings
Midway on 42nd Street

If someone asks me
I will answer for sure I didn’t see a thing

 

 

 

 

CREMATION

Placing a dead body
Rolled up like a ball of chewing gum in a drawer
I form its contours with my lips
The sun will not reach here
(As if by losing one person
You had lost everything)

Candlelight on the table
The frame of my glasses rests heavily on
My nose –
Darker and darker
A sluggish glaze like the shell of a beetle

Slowly I throw myself into the candle flame
And gradually burn
My body getting colder
Making sure nothing will remain
I use all my imagination
To let my skin grow impoverished and melt away
My bones tangle like white strings and disappear
And even my mind becomes ashes
Fluttering and falling on the far ground    blending in

The cemetery is inside the drawer
But the dead body remains within me

 

Translated by Yuka Tsukagoshi & Eric Selland.

 

 

 

- - - - - -

Yuka Tsukagoshi is a poet and translator. She has a degree in English from Dokkyo University and studied literature and creative writing at SUNY New Paltz. Her book When Clouds Look Like Scrambled Eggs, published by Shichousha press in 2008 was nominated for the 59 Mr.H prize. Her work was also included in the anthology 310 Poets on Air Raids (Coal Sack Press, 2009). She gives readings of her work at Tokyo venues and often works collaboratively with visual artists in gallery shows and live performances.

Eric Selland is a poet and translator living on the San Francisco peninsula. His translations of Modernist and contemporary Japanese poets have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. He has also published articles on Japanese Modernist poetry and translation theory.  He is the author of The Condition of Music (Sink Press, 2000), Inventions (Seeing Eye Books, 2007), and an essay in The Poem Behind the Poem: Translating Asian Poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2004). Eric is currently editing an anthology of 20th century Japanese Modernist and avant-garde poetry.

 

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