To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Akira Tatehata: Seven Poems, with a note in praise of

Translation from Japanese by Hiroaki Sato


I have no memory of traveling alone. I laughed at the endless hand-washing, its fierceness, but that, too, was merely someone else’s shame. Slow travel in which I pile up false quotations. The slowness of prose.

Milk is white the way frosted glass is; a transparent liquid turns white when innumerable scars are made, I was told. Also, that individual is another name for a group and that it is a corrupt group, besides. (We were being laughed at.) Individualist, what do you think of the delays of travel? Are you ashamed of its “pretended irrationality”? Or are you proud? (Laugh, if you want to.) Even a man with a thin frame is, in bed, a penile warrior. Repeatedly, time and again, he stirs himself up like that. Pile up a liquid’s wounds, prose on the desk, be late. Laugh at someone else’s shame, a group with another name, be late. Toward daybreak, the milk, too, is black. In your memory, that dark point that touches the other. In the darkness of the quotation, prose is left behind.


You, undulate. You, laugh. You, solidify. And voice quavering, you go out of the dark walls. —To which place?

The I of the future was weaving cells in a narrow room with sounds. The river in the room (there someone else’s blood) goes on meandering but in the end never goes outside the walls. In this case, the walls are effective. But many people are thinking the opposite: one must show “a merciless attitude when push comes to shove,” if possible like a fart released into the field. Did you laugh now?

Listen. What I open is a field page, where “towers of breasts” rise and I, as kith and kin of a man with someone else’s blood circulating in him, and without any responsibility, am listening to a scream from an ancient age. Or to the melancholy wing-beat of a corny future cell.

Even if the meandering is a form of humiliation, listen, have no mercy when push comes to shove! You, undulate. You, laugh. You, solidify. And voice quavering, you go out of the dark walls. —To which place?


I knew your voice. The red dark domain under the skin, where I was once derided and, even worse, hated. I think your voice still remains in the house people stopped visiting, though I don’t know when, and, though I can’t really grasp whether it is a photograph, a painting, porcelain, a letter, the smell of rubber, a buried seal, the pulsing darkness, or a cold request as a different matter, but in any case it belongs to the red dark domain between bones and skin.

It is a quaver and a squeak. Therefore it passes by.

I was told that the essence of being a monk is spasm; therefore they too lose their color.

Now the only thing I can do is to place my expectations in a large woman who has gotten away from the lake water and has her elbow bent in a small room. A different matter like that is cruel, too, but landscape and architecture teach us that the borderline between what’s visible and what is invisible is ambiguous. Derided or hated, I withdraw into a castle of ludicrous gestures like a quaking monk. And look for the voice that is left. Under the skin, is the domain still red and dark?


Football long after Picasso. Just running isn’t the right thing to do, but in our case, we are mindlessly roaming the white field. That pole. That bar. That line. Looking at them askance, they’re more like a white dream. Not knowing the location of our lust, that’s our defect we’d hesitate to record in our personal notes. We, the runners in the margins, won’t even be able to laugh with a wife in a Baroque salon. But that the haze-like light is “trembling,” it was confided to me. Also that, if you roam, it’s “the immediate experience of a hidden memory.” First quake. Then the lust will automatically show its outlines. . . .

Football long after Picasso. That pole, that bar, that line. My uncle who has the distant cheers seeped into his alpaca coat is also walking across the salon, but to us who see him off, eyes tending to be shyly lowered, the act also is like a white dream.

Yes, we are runners in the margins.

“There is a historic body lifted above this beautiful field.”

We are quaking runners in the margins.

“The honeybee’s wing-beat is the figure of a flower’s lust.”


If there’s a youth who can’t shit, let me know. I’d like to have him talk about how much fun life is. Will he contentedly respond by saying that situated in “a special site, an actual site” like the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Campidoglio, he is repeating great failures? Will he gallantly assert that he doesn’t even know the difference between autonomous and autocratic? Or will he overbearingly tell us that soon (that is, as the twentieth century draws to a close) “category” becomes vague and the shit he can’t shit comes out and that’s even more of a failure? But! But! But! The axiom of shame is iconography. The matter of shit is historicism. To a statue, life may be too hard.


That’s the house of a woman whose diarrhea doesn’t stop. No stand of trees around it, a red road quietly turns somewhere near it. I go closer, tomorrow’s rain doesn’t stop today either, and I, beating my thin breast, alone threaten the gray sky. The nights in which I repeated ridiculous gestures for you and laughed, those nights are now a thing of the past. The black market that nurtures dogmatic moralists appears to be no longer held in this neighborhood. As for the late-night wind that supported roadside lust, the station building with a fountain, the dark green bench, the clattering shutters, I might forget them. But, finger pointed, I still can love only stereotypical things. A red road without any trees. The rain doesn’t stop. That is the house of the woman whose diarrhea doesn’t stop.


I will not fight for you. Because the sun will set soon, shooting stars will be seen from west to east. The premonitions will all be fulfilled. It is ludicrous if you think you can take care of everything with a narrow society or an anti-society. To think grumbling is confrontation and regard dull rhetoric as history, if it’s a right to laugh off such a worn-out contest, everyone has it. Though it’s a terrible morning, I open the window, compare that parrot with this carrot, and inch toward the one-man show that wasn’t fulfilled yesterday. Insincerity is my habit. The night is far, and near. You are fundamentally miserable on account of your hobby of being criticized, but I’d rather ask for non-criticism. You being no longer young, know that you are in a process that hasn’t begun and is already ending. Because the sun will set soon, you can see shooting stars. Though, as to now, it’s a truly terrible morning that makes me flinch from the battle of sitting down on a chair of cold pipes. Though it’s a really terrible morning, when outside the window there’s only a dirty plaza, both that parrot and this carrot stone-cold


Union Square, New York

The seal. The white mark that closes the door to dreams. I left it unerased. The Siren disappeared behind the dreams, leaving only the white sign. As a story, this is inhuman. Trying to break the seal, I couldn’t help being afraid. A beautiful refusal like an alluring voice. The cruel sign remains faintly on the pale door.

[NOTE. In 2003 Hiroaki Sato, as translator, drew my attention to the poetry of Tatehata Akira, better known as an art historian & curator, but with a genius for the short prose poem that recalled a handful of poets so gifted in our own language & place. For his first book in English, Runners in the Margins (P.S., A Press, 2003), I wrote the following in response: “The power of Japanese poetry since World War Two lies in the creative ferocity & precision of what one of its practitioners called ‘a return to totality in poetry.’ To the ranks of those who have moved Japan into the mainstream of international poetry, we can now add Tatehata Akira & can place him among those poets from Rimbaud to the present, who have broken the spine of verse or chosen prose itself as a medium for poetry. In Hiroaki Sato’s English versions, Tatehata appears as a poet with the ability to move clusters of language & perceptions into larger assemblages – a narrative that escapes from narrative, to create a world that startles & so causes us to see.” (J.R.)]

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