Sigh

translated by Christian Nagle

 

for Tetsutaro Kawakami

A sigh will go out to a bog at night
and blink within the miasma.
The blink will continue grudgingly and make a snapping sound.
Trees will resemble the napes of young scholarly colleagues’ necks.

When dawn breaks, a window will open onto the horizon.
A cart-drawing peasant will leave for the city.
The sigh will become deeper still,
like the cart sound echoing through the hills.

A pine tree pushing into a field from a mountain’s verge will keep an eye on me.
It will look like an ordinary uncle who never laughs.
As if God were catching fish from the depths of an air stratum.

When the sky becomes overcast, locust eyes will peep through sandy earth.
A distant town will look like lime.
Peter the Great’s eyeballs glimmer in the clouds.

 


 

ためいき
河上徹太郎に

 

ためいきは夜の沼にゆき、
瘴気の中で瞬きをするであらう。
その瞬きは怨めしさうにながれながら、パチンと音をたてるだらう。
木々が若い学者仲間の、頸すぢのやうであるだらう。

夜が明けたら地平線に、窓が開くだらう。
荷車を挽いた百姓が、町の方へ行くだらう。
ためいきはなほ深くして、
丘に響きあたる荷車の音のやうであるだらう。

野原に突出た山ノ端の松が、私を看守つてゐるだらう。
それはあつさりしてても笑はない、叔父さんのやうであるだらう。
神様が気層の底の、魚を捕つてゐるやうだ。

空が曇つたら、蝗螽の瞳が、砂土の中に覗くだらう。
遠くに町が、石灰みたいだ。
ピョートル大帝の目玉が、雲の中で光つてゐる。

Front page image by josefstuefer.

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Chuya Nakahara

About the Author

Chuya Nakahara (1907–1937) was a Japanese early modernist whose mastery of formal verse (waka) combined with a competency in French to provide for his hybrid evolution. A translator of the Symbolists and Surrealists, he is admired today as one of the most scrupulous pre-war Japanese writers of poems informed by European models. Although Chuya died in obscurity, more criticism has now been written on him than any other Japanese poet. Christian Nagle, the translator, has published or has forthcoming poetry, essays, translations, interviews and prose fiction in Esquire, The Paris Review, Raritan, Southwest Review, New England Review, Antioch Review, Measure, The Literary Review, Kyoto Journal, Quick Fiction, and many other magazines. For more than a decade he has lived in Tokyo, translating the works of Chuya Nakahara.
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