Monday, 18 October 2010

What Plot is This?

It is harvest time in Kyoto now - the views of the fields have probably changed little for hundreds of years. One of the most characteristic sights are the higanbana (higan refers to the Autumn equinox; hana/bana is flower - spiderlily in English) which sprout up overnight by the sides of the fields from early September onwards.

This is a poem I translated several years ago, working with the author, Melvin Wong, to translate a rather thick volume of his work. I was pleased to have the opportunity to work with him on these evocative poems - this is one I particularly liked for its mix of the real and the fantastic - it seems a throwback to some dark happening in the past. Although they were never published, I still rather like them.

Rice Field
The autumn light unhesitatingly
Switched the waving rice
From the green of summer to its own yellow-brown.
With the turn of seasons,
Nothing is forgotten, it seems.
Like roaring flames come the red flowers.
The fresh blood of jealousy erupts
From the multitude of buried dead.
What kind of plot is this?
In a single night
In all the fields around,
The rice,
Before its day of execution,
Is bent before the violence of the coming storm
Blowing ever more strongly.
At the end of the day - no harvesting
And fear increasing all the more -
An eerie sunset

Melvin Wong (Chris Hellman Trans.)

Photo courtesy of Japundit Blog

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