Thursday, 30 October 2008

Slumbering Snow

In the corner of my school's library is a shelf of Japanese books they are giving away. I found a pretty little book of essays called "Far and Near" by someone called Sata Ineko, and to celebrate, I have translated the first essay.

Slumbering Snow

First yesterday and now today, the television and newspapers are telling of snow. As I say, “The snow-cover is formidable”, I am even a little exited, absorbed in the television’s images of a town curtained off by falling snow, and of trains and their tracks transformed into pure white. The reason that I am always saying “The snow-cover is formidable” is that among the friends of my youth was someone who, after marrying, left Tokyo to settle in Takada for her husband’s work, and I remember it from this girl’s words. That was during the war, and I heard that then women climbed the roofs to disburden them of snow, but I wonder how things are there now.

I don’t know any snowy lands. Born in Nagasaki in Kyushu, I have inhabited Tokyo since I was a young girl. Still now, I harbour a child’s longing for snow. Because I know that my own yearning for snow is trivial, I add my memories of my old friend’s tales of hardship concerning snow-cover.

It was long ago that I first heard the phrase ‘slumbering snow’, so that I forget exactly when it was, but in any case, I felt that it was a beautiful phrase. And I used this phrase in my own novel, writing the character for ‘sleep’ and the character for ‘snow’. I received a letter of correction from a kind reader, saying; “I think rather than ‘slumbering snow’ (‘sleep’ and ‘snow’) the phrase is ‘lingering snow’ (‘perseverance’ and ‘snow’).” The letter was from a man, and while I was grateful for his kind indication, my own hasty assumption was awfully embarrassing.

I who had nothing but foolish yearning when it came to snow, had arbitrarily personified snow, and made a phrase like ‘slumbering snow’. Despite the fact that it can be found properly written as ‘lingering snow’ in the dictionary, I had not checked it. I found my own personification ridiculous.

It was at this time that I learned that when my unfounded desires turned into my own manner of anthropomorphism, I would make ridiculous mistakes. That was an important lesson that applied on other occasions. Only a few years ago, in a town in the north-east I came across a snow-dance, but I was instructed that rather than ‘snow’ it was called the “The ‘ko’ of the wind”. Again, I began to think of this as “The child of the wind”, but hurriedly stopped myself. What is the character for the ‘ko’ in “The ‘ko’ of the wind”, I would like to know.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

An old poem for an old poem

I am posting this in fulfilment of a promise to a good friend. Chosen not for merit, but simply because this is the last poem I have written.

Her Jumper

Her immobile jumper languors lonely across
my un-used amp, not un-like a painted nude.
That arcane, unmoved juniper jumper, imbued
with some of her encompass; its warm comprisal
mine on loan. Accommodating its arrival,
my room shifted like sighing lungs describing a loss
of un-used air. Remembered, her voice draws a chord
of forbidden song, but I know; text not thy lord
so I never asked her number, I see the sense
of the order of things. Her dead jumper alone
can embrace away cold and it lies still where thrown:
soap-sud stubble and careless creases, just one massive absence

(14th May '05)