The Dry Season

All of it dependent on words.
When books burn,
even the settings of stars collapse,
and slipping from thick palms and fingers,
the history of place falls away,
a malignant physical appendage.
(at this moment a figure passes quickly through the summer grass)
Letting the blessings of ancestors fall on the body,
drawing a bow toward the sleepless (karmic) core.
(what is this festival eve for?)
Recognizing, as something like moonlight,
the maternal voice of origin as it ricochets through time’s usages
and sinks (into the mind).
A word, unseasoned wood.
A woman’s laughter floats out
from bamboo leaves rustling
in a kind of rhyme with the scratches eroding from a copper board,
as she passes behind the sliding door of half-transparent Japanese paper
(although I recognized her for what she was).
Is anything redeemed (by one preceding line)?
Something like words can be imagined, trembling,
the long genealogy of the mother-tongue,
each phoneme standing clear (without its face)
(having been) arousing, aroused, aroused,
always, back to questions (echoing back)
never finished, but nested by echoes.
(being born . . ., being born . . . .)
Oh moon, turn from your eclipse! Melt down
the utensils at hand,
mute the drawings on the sliding door!
(the incarnation diminishing)
Only occasionally can the udumbara flowers be seen.
Stuffed with thousands of years of funeral services, (released)
not tamed,
(a flicker of something like flames . . . )
Still, endorsement, words, body
(these, which are not given)
are not even what I can call for.

Shuri Kido translated by Tomoyuki Endo & Forrest Gander





Shuri Kido, known as the “far north poet,” has published several poetry books and essays and is one of the most important poets on the front line of contemporary poetry in Japan. He has translated many English poems into Japanese and has introduced works by Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot to Japan. Kido has been a critic and columnist for various magazines and newspapers and has a profound knowledge of Japanese culture.

Tomoyuki Endo is an assistant professor at Wako University in Tokyo, teaching modernists and post-modernists such as Ezra Pound, W. C. Williams, T. S. Eliot, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Junzaburo Nishiwaki, Katsue Kitasono, and Kazuko Shiraishi, along with literary pop artists including Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and others. He has collaborated with Forrest Gander on the translation of three poems from Shiraishi’s My Floating Mother, City (New Directions). He was also the supervisor of English subtitles for Gozo Yoshimasu’s movies Thousands of Islands and The Reality behind What We See which won more than ten awards from international movie festivals.

Forrest Gander, born in the Mojave Desert, lives in California. A translator and cross-genre writer with degrees in geology and literature, he’s the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize, the Best Translated Book Award, and fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Guggenheim, and United States Artists Foundations.