Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Urashima, The Unofficial Version

Here is Beholdmyswarthyface's translation of "Urashima, The Unofficial Version," a 20-line tanka sequence by contemporary poet Ishikawa Mina 石川美南 (b. 1980). The poem is loosely based on the story of Urashima Tarō. For Ishikawa's original, click here.

(I, gray with years, close my eyes and open the box. In the box is an ancient sea.)
Rocks crumbling from the bluff, the cape grumbled on and on

Drawing on memory unfurl the neatly folded sea


Catch and release
, midday break lingering in the mouth is salt-breeze

Wielded by an invisible hand an angling rod snags a bale of turtles

Mulling on the soul
foot tramples a shellfish graveyard

(Tuesday. Order in for boxes. Inquiry for four payments.)

Fingering a hole in the conference room we'll leave the emergency light on

I paste in the margins, but can't seem to stick with anyone

Finished with the manual I shoo away the sea anemone behind the copier

Falsetto voices call gaily from afar
Marco . . . Polo . . . here where the sea laps

(Friday. After work, the sea.)

Beckoned, sinking quietly into the seagardenlove's recognition comes too late

Sighs seep from the raft, they say there's a city too at dusky sea's bottom

Into one another we swim and give, roughly 300 years in human time

(A late-night magic show on TV. On the count of three, the boxes are shred to bits, but no trace of anyone inside.)

Words of reproach no longer in stock, the flowerbed that no longer blooms

(Monday. Took the day off to visit a far-away place.)

To each mourner in the procession waves come and go: Sadness. Mirth. Grief. Confusion.

And so young, younger even than me
the faint coffin slides through midday

Falling behind I suck at the shellfish miso soup, shuru-shuru

By foot they come offering me a lovely container
fill it with whatever you like

Determined to outlive them all, my fingers dismantle the dice-caramels

Peeping into the jeweled comb box
the passing years of my age and youth


The sea-mess, no longer contractible, waves beat the edges
of a disheveled mind


Josh Landars said...

Talk about zokka and haifai-ification! Looks like the spirit of Edo is still alive today!

Ian Hogarth said...

Echoes of Ashbery, anyone?

Jill Parri said...

What poems did you have in mind, Ian?

Ian Hogarth said...

Jill, I had the following in mind, which originally appeared in Sulfur #5 [1981] and was included in Ashbery’s book A Wave [Viking, 1984]

“37 Haiku”

Old-fashioned shadows hanging down, that difficulty in love too soon

Some star or other went out, and you, thank you for your book and year

Something happened in the garage and I owe it for the blood traffic

Too low for nettles but it is exactly the way people think and feel

And I think there's going to be even more but waist-high

Night occurs dimmer each time with the pieces of light smaller and squarer

You have original artworks hanging on the walls oh I said edit

You nearly undermined the brush I now place againts the ball field arguing

That love was a round place and will still be there two years from now

And it is a dream sailing in a dark unprotected cove

Pirates imitate the ways of ordinary people myself for instance

Planted over and over that land has a bitter aftertaste

A blue anchor grains of grit in a tall sky sewing

He is a monster like everyone else but what do you if you're a monster

Like him feeling him come from far away and then go down to his car

The wedding was enchanted everyone was glad to be in it

What trees, tools, why ponder socks on the premises

Come to the edge of the barn the property really begins there

In a smaller tower shuttered and put away there

You lay aside your hair like a book that is too important to read now

Why did witches pursue the beast from the eight sides of the country

A pencil on glass—shattered! The water runs down the drain

In winter sometimes you see those things and also in summer

A child must go down it must stand and last

Too late the last express passes through the dust of gardens

A vest—there is so much to tell about even in the side rooms

Hesitantly, it built up and passed quickly without unlocking

There are some places kept from the others and are separate, they never exist

I lost my ridiculous accent without acquiring another

In Buffalo, Buffalo she was praying, the nights stick together like pages in an old book

The dreams descend like cranes on gilded, forgetful wings

What is the past, what is it all for? A mental sandwich?

Did you say, hearing the schooner overhead, we turned back to the weir?

In rags and crystals, sometimes with a shred of sense, an odd dignity

The box must have known the particles fell through the house after him

All in all we were taking our time, the sea returned—no more pirates

I inch and only sometimes as far as the twisted pole gone in spare color

Anonymous said...

What's a sea-mess?