Tuesday Poem

The River

Earth-colored water hesitates, flows
I realize it is a river
The descendant of formless underground dwellers,
the water is heading toward the sea, that much I know
but I don’t know when and how it welled up

As the train crosses the river a young woman next to me yawns
There is something welling up, too, from the shadowy depth of her mouth
Suddenly I realize my brain is more dull-witted than my flesh

Feeling uneasy that I, the flesh, riding a train,
am made mostly of water
I, the brain, prop myself up with words

Sometime in a distant past, somewhere in a distant place
words were much less voluminous, but
their ties to the nether world were perhaps much stronger

Water remains on this planet
morphing into seas, clouds, rains and ice
Words, too, cling to this planet
morphing into speeches, poems, contracts and treaties

I, too, cling to this planet

by Shuntaro Tanikawa
from Watashi (I Myself)
publisher: Shichosha, Tokyo, 2007
translation: Takako Lento, 2011