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Ishihara Yoshirō


Four Poems

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato





What is there

is there

as is.


a hand is there,

a foot is there,

itís even snickering.

If youíve seen it,

say youíve seen it.

Each time with a clatter

you step on a cup, crushing it,

push open the door,

and hurry off, placed

flat on your back of countless


a thick palm.

Where are you running to?

Even if every one of them


itís there,

it is there as is.

Like a criminal whose punishment is forgotten,


a foot is there,

a hand is there,


itís even snickering.


Horse and Riot


When inside us

two horses run

in the crack between the two

another horse runs.

When we set out to riot

we run with that

one horse.

Itís this one horse that sets out

with us to riot

not the two horses

on its flanks.

Therefore when we stop walking

what runs off

from us

is the one horse

not the two horses

on its flanks.

When inside us

two bandits run

in the crack between the two

another bandit runs.

When inside us

two hollows run

in the crack between the two

still another hollow runs.

What sets out with us to riot

is this last bandit

and this last hollow.




To the height of a humanís ears

they set his ears,

to the height of shoulders they set his shoulders.

In the space in which iron and fig drip

nightís depth that defines him

is up to the mouths, empty cups, standing like trees.

The namable darkness has given him,

like a soldier,

an excellent posture.

From evening to daybreak

the plates continue to be precisely distributed,

and the night ponderously

loaded on them.

Be it wine or blood

that is loaded,

what is loaded there

must be himself.

In the great silence

like the back of a bull

he crouched,

again rose to his feet,

and struck fire nails on the certain four corners.

From one nail

he hung a whip,

from one nail

he hung prayers,

from one nail

he hung himself,

from one nail

he hung the last moment,

and left the world to bear

the night with only a chair and a table.

This is recorded in the darkness

and all presences

are sniffed out there.

It is correct to call this night

the only time.

But when completion and misery

are equally a blessing,

no night should be like this night

any longer.



Funeral Train


What station we started from

no one remembers any longer.

Through a strange land where itís always

midday on the right and midnight on the left

the train keeps running.

Each time it arrives at a station, invariably

a red lamp peers in the window

and along with soiled wooden legs and torn boots

black lumps are thrown in.

Every one of them is alive,

and even while the train runs,

every one of them remains alive;

nonetheless the whole train

everywhere is filled with the smell of corpses.

To be sure, I am there myself.

Everyone already a half-ghost,

they hang onto one another,

they huddle together,

they still eat and drink

bits and pieces,

but some are already transparent around their asses,

about to fade away.

Yes, to be sure, I am there myself.

Leaning resentfully against the window,

sometimes one of us

begins to chew on a rotten apple,

myself, my ghost.

So all the time we

overlap with our own ghosts,

separate ourselves from them,

waiting for the train to arrive at

the unbearable, remote future.

Who is in the locomotive?

Each time we cross a huge black iron bridge,

the girders rumble ponderously,

and many ghosts, for a second,

stop their eating hands.

They are tying to remember

what station they started from.







Four months after Japan's surrender in 1945, Ishihara Yoshirō while awaiting repatriation in Harbin was taken prisoner and detained by Soviets (one of more that 600,000 Japanese in Northeast Asia). He was indicted for anti-Soviet activities and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor. He served most of 1950 working with Romanian, German and Russian "criminals" in forest-clearing along the Baikal-Amur Railroad. In 1950 he was moved to Khabarovsk, and in 1953, upon Stalin's death, was released. Ishihara's first book of poetry, Sancho Pansa no Kikyō (Sancho Panza's Homecoming) appeared in 1963, and during the rest of his life published a total of sixteen books of poems and essays. Green Integer will publish a selection of Ishihara's poetry in 2007.


Copyright ©2006 by Hiroaki Sato and Green Integer.