(translated from the Japanese by Tomoyuki Endo and Forrest Gander)
From The Illusory Mother
Rejected by Water
The subtle vibrations only your breath registers.
Seeking such vibrations
for these last decades,
you come to know, from the soles of your feet upward, how much moisture
the soil of each place holds.
But why are riverbanks so dry?
Being rejected by water,
being rejected by the river,
you idle away your life,
and in the blink of an eye,
you’ve already arrived into your late years.
Thinking that you’re remaining in place,
and reflecting on yourself
in your own native land,
you stay removed from your own origin.
In such moments,
the emotion you associate with “my native country”
is born without a referent.
In such moments,
people like to see headwaters.
Every time some casual conversation takes place,
your existence is jeopardized,
you won’t be able, from time to time, to hear your own voices.
When you cross a river,
everyday scenery blurs out,
though sometimes, you manage to see
People believe the source of the river is the omphalos of the world.
Legend has it,
that there is a column at the center of Eurasia
rising into the azure sky, supported by a huge fish.
That summit, at an altitude of 6.656 meters, endures frost year-round,
and on the mountain’s skirt, the holy Lake Manasarovar
is surrounded by an ethereal atmosphere
reflecting the will of the gods.
The shape of the holy mountain Kailas is limned with ice.
Beside it, a lion spouts water night and day,
birthing the four great distinct muddy rivers.
Let’s name them:
the Indus, the Ganges, the Sutlej, the Yarlung Zangbo.
Sven Hedin visited the source of these rivers
after his deadly journey to the highland of Qiangtang.
“One old pilgrim lay dead
between two rocks.
This man didn’t have enough stamina
to accomplish his pilgrimage through these godly mountains.”*
Is his soul now drifting over or under what he believed
was the sea of reincarnation?
The bones laid out at the foot of the Kailas,
and left for “sky-burial” look
like shards of ice strewn across the holy mountain,
and a young girl can lose her life and be washed away
even from the mouth of a river.
* quoted from A Conquest of Tibet by Sven Hedin.
Shuri Kido, known as the “far north poet,” has published many books of poetry and essays and is considered one of the most influential contemporary poets in Japan. He has introduced translations of works by Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot to Japan. His work is infused with 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, Katue 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 also served as 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 at international movie festivals.
Forrest Gander, born in the Mojave Desert, lives in California. A translator and multiple-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 Foundation.