Sunday, May 14, 2017

Translations of Professor Toru Hoshino's poetry

Translations of Professor Toru Hoshino's poetry

I translated four poems by a certain Professor Toru Hoshino who was teaching part-time at the graduate school of St. Paul's (Rikkyo) University the two years I attended. He was a brother of Professor Sachiko Hoshino, a colleague of mine at Daito Bunka University. He helped me in many ways. I wanted to translate more of his work, but never got around to doing more than these few pieces, all of which appear here.


September came in 1695.
And in the deepest hollow of his skull,
a hollow piercing to his shoulder blade,
a certain something clear and ashen piled.
To pass away, a flash, then gone like light.
But bodies live, depending much on things,
and overshoot the point of life's embrace.
So bit by bit, the dogged stubborness,
the taut word-crafting pressed intensely thought,
and in it came the move to set afire
the transient ashes of the hidden self.
He walked on wings towards Namesway Town,
and onward out to barren Bittersmere.
And while he flew through Winter's lonely weeds,
he sliced apart the constant flow of time.
He cut the racing edge of wind too thick,
and time went up in jets of cold, blue, flames;
but empty ash, the afterbirth, remained.
Awareness weighed him down, and boredom, too;
and ash without a color, smell, or shape.
He felt within the hollow of his skull,
the hollow reaching to his should blade,
the ease with which the days had readed an end.
He thought again of birds that soar the sky
to dusky dawn's dark, morning, silver, face,
the godlike force of surging, purple clouds,
the excess force that trails a bird in flight.
The image made his memory fester then.
as far as to the hollow of his skull
and down the hollow of his shoulder blade.
September came in 1695.
A journey in reverse to essence and an end,
like crossing through a wobbling, slanted, door,
confused with fate and at a loss with life.
Then something strange like lightning struck the ash
ablaze with fierceness, force, and fire again.
He wavered first with imprecise impulse,
with unborn lines that failed at first to form,
with unheard sounds that almost failed to sing.
He faced his heart debating doubts, unsure;
and then it came, the rush of a poet's words:
"A trip, and sick, and dreams that race around
in fevered circles on the wasteland's bound..."

5 May 1986, translated by Hikaru Kitabayashi


"Catch all the fire flies that you can snare,
but then you'll have to wash your hands with care!"
my grandma said with force, though short and small.
I wonder if I realized it all,
how such a frail thing could smell so strong,
infecting youthful souls with right and wrong.

I washed and washed to rid the smell they made,
but like some deep, implanted, grudge it stayed.
The stinking light left on my palm its trace,
since gradma one night flashed and lost life's race.

23 June 1986, translated by Hikaru Kitabayashi


It seemed like the real thing
Sitting there red like that of a wife
Fresher, though, and young
Meshing its colors in the borders of the night
Touched by my lips, and then the vermillion abundance
Such as it was, it seemed like the real thing
Fresher, though, and young
Meshing its colors in the borders of the demon-haunted night

5 November 1986, translated by Hikaru Kitabayashi


My small home town, it stood atop the banks,
up-flung above the Tonegawa river,
the lonely child of brute topography,
where old folks called little ones 'the spooks'.
How ghosts of words reverberate through time!
We spooks were 'spooked' they'd say, not 'spirited'.

In our abode, the land of little spooks,
an outcrop towering high existed near
with all the mystery of another world;
and in the misty shadows of the night
the town would rise and pierce the dark
to reach the glimmering outcrop -- pale, apart.

We spooks too soon became restrained adults,
but secrete memories glimmer even now
of love and loving -- emptied with pain.
With dull despair I sought the outcrop's help,
but mysteries remained mysteries --
we went to war and more despair.

The secret outcrop of the lasting light,
it, too, evolved, was changed into a spook,
a goblin wrecked by love -- its hurt, its blight.

9 January 1987, translated by Hikaru Kitabayashi

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