I'm walking along when from the other side grandmother comes by and asks where are you going
so I say I'm going to see me over there
and she says you'll run into horrible trouble if you become too friendly with the other one.
I say the other one seems gentler and more beautiful
and she says that's the trouble.
She says that's because the other one has makeup on.
Don't you smell my rouge?
Shall we try to see if you are really me? she'll say.
Shall we try to see if we exactly fit each other? she'll say.
Saying things like that, she intends to suck you in and become the real thing, she says.
You better watch out, grandmother says, and turns to walk away,
and her back is glitteringly wet.
Giggle giggle giggle grandmother herself must have seen herself over there.
Exactly fit each other?
When I still don't know anything about the one over there and I'm going to her for the first time?
Tonight I dress up in white and go into someone's dream.
Because I don't know who that someone is, I'm all the more excited,
so on top of dressing up in white, I use rouge before going.
While using rouge, I suddenly wonder
what if I went into father's dream tonight.
Father would be confused by my dress.
He'd be entangled by mother's obsessions that go beyond me, and he'd get deranged.
That would be fun, too,
but it would also be fun to flicker in that boy's dream.
But I never go to anyone I have such thoughts about,
and wondering if in a dream of someone unexpected
I'm going to be beautiful or if I'm not going to be deranged,
I carefully retie my sash and go to sleep.
Having casually raised his hand and said, Well, goodbye, then, father crumbled without a sound and turned into sand.
It can't be that simple, I complained,
and mother laughed brightly, saying, He's a man.
Slender and thin and about to crumble any moment, mother never crumbles.
Grandmother who's plump and heavy may crumble first, I feel.
I told her that,
and she laughed again, saying, Even I have at least one thing that commends me.
Mother laughs often these days.
Every time she laughs she becomes eroded but her smiling face
that doesn't become eroded no matter how eroded it gets
grows large like a peony flower that goes on blooming.
I'm sure mother will crumble into her own pistils when she has bloomed fully;
she'll go on unwinding herself,
with petals fluttering around her that can't crumble into anything no matter how they try.
I entwined my arm around my big sister's feminine handwriting
and sister, tittering, went on writing the letter
and my body became intertwined with it like ivy grass
and I wept, crying, Help me, help me, you are being mean to me, sister,
and sister unraveled me with her fingers smelling of rouge.
It was the season when at the treetop of my big sister's feminine handwriting
pink flowers bloomed,
the season when blue thorns perspired,
the season the wind became conscious of his young whiskers.
Looking up at it I continued to yearn for the letter,
but when I tried to read the first letter addressed to me,
big sister's feminine handwriting intertwined itself around the letter and made fun of me
so my cheeks could only burn
until finally the letter
started to pant hotly like a boy amid big sister's feminine handwriting as it still does now.
In the crack where I am about to awake, grandmother is putting away my dream.
I need it, I say,
but she says these things are poison and continues putting it away.
But that's my dream, I say,
and she says that makes it all the more poisonous.
It seems my dream has thorns growing from it for grandmother's fingers are bleeding a little
and as if to hide this she's taking it into a corner.
As if to dispel the sadness that thorns should grow even on my dream
and the pain that I've hurt grandmother,
I shout that's my dream, that's my dream,
and I awake to my own voice.
When I mix father's blood and my blood in a test tube it turns pale blue.
I show it to father
and he says forlornly that's because you hate me
but I insist it's because we're missing mother's blood.
The moment I put a drop of mother's blood in it, it turns a peach color.
When I was small all of us saw peach blossoms, didn't we?
Come, you don't remember, do you? Don't you remember? I ask,
and both father and mother only shake their heads.
Sad, I start crying,
and the tears turn into peach-color petals and emit scent around us
but both father and mother only shake their heads.
Their eyes are swollen with tears but the tears do not drop.
If those tears drop and mix with mine,
those petals will turn into real blossoms.
The truth is,
my putting in a drop of mother's blood is a fantasy,
that it became peach-colored blood is an illusion.
I've never shown father what I'm doing,
and father, living in his hometown with my stepmother and loving her,
has never forgotten to offer incense to mother.
I'm merely enjoying myself
by mixing father's blood and mine in a test tube, alone, secretly.
In mother's softest spot I shined to see what would happen.
Mother didn't wake up
and so I turned up my shining to see what would happen.
Gradually it became painful but I put up with it and remained shining.
Then the surroundings turned white, transparent,
and mother was ready to turn into ashes but was still asleep.
And I woke up in the ashes.
In my softest spot
mother was shining.
mother is pulling weeds. With a cold gesture,
with hands of gentle warmth,
she's pulling the weeds inside me,
mother, too, hurting herself with the leaves of the weeds inside her,
every time she hurts herself, more seriously
she pulls the weeds inside me,
hurting herself more deeply.
As even the smoke that incinerated father disappeared
my inside became empty
and I heard only the clattering sound of sadness going up and down.
Had both hating and loving been incinerated along with father's body?
I was preparing to pick up mother's scattered bones and the moon was pale.
Why are you on a riverbed like this? I asked,
and she laughed and said, The mother you know is not the only me.
I was about to put her bones in my kimono chest,
and she said, I no longer want to go back there,
leave me as I am.
Aunt's hand caresses my right leg.
Her body already eroded and transparent as wax hanging around my feverish thighs,
she says it's cold and feels nice, doesn't it?
Then I begin to think as if I share the pain between the two of us
and mimicking her I remain entwined.
How come, your body so limpid, you're burning the pain like this, I ask,
and aunt, smiling mysteriously,
changes the subject: Have you by any chance become older than I am, I wonder?
Auntie, who touched you first that your body's become so warped?
I was cursed by my own thoughts.
While we're playing innocently like that,
my right leg becomes something like vermilion cut glass,
the bone inside burning, wavering.
Some days my own poem hanging around me I feel warm all day.
I tell him he isn't such a big deal,
but entwining himself around my earlobe and arm
he begs me to make a clean copy now so I deliberately delay,
enjoying exasperating him like that.
Come night I make a clean copy of him and see
he really isn't a big deal and crumple him up and throw him away.
Then I don't know where to throw away the fever that has kept me warm
and begin to be exasperated with myself, seriously.
In a fever I am a child going home in the evening twilight
being shaken by large hands and dozing.
Sadness perched on my shoulder,
gripping something nostalgic,
sometimes I feel my home's right there,
sometimes I feel it's way over beyond the mountain.
Scared by my own shadow that's too long,
resisting the urge to cry,
sometimes I feel what I see over there is my home,
sometimes I feel my home doesn't exist no matter how far I go
while I burn in my fever, wavering.
After playing with a cat,
as I turned a page of a book, I looked at my hand:
its slippery skin looked strange.
If the cat were my master and he kept me,
he would think I'm weird and say
poor you, you're cursed, aren't you, no hair grows on your skin, it's exposed to the air as if peeled.
Indulging in a fantasy that I'm covered with soft, fluffy hair
I looked up to my upper arm.
I happen to wake up midway through a dream,
so I enter once again into the shape of the dream
that's still waiting for me on the other side
and somehow I feel I've gotten very small,
the space between me and the shape of the dream baggy as a boot that's too big.
I woke from a nap and yawned
and the yawn ended up being reflected in a rainbow
and because the rainbow, exactly as it was, arched over the village beyond, too,
in the village beyond that's unknown to me
everyone knows about my yawn, I'm told.
They compare my swollen eyelids and unkempt hair to funny things
and there's even a folkloric legend about me, I'm told.
Nonetheless no one in the village believes
that I truly exist, I'm told.
Just when I was about to fall asleep
there was noise from the direction of the kitchen
and since I thought it was the noise of a knife stirring
I imagined myself taking it up and stabbing someone
in the throat during the night and became wide awake.
I put the knife deep in the cupboard and tried to sleep
but then I thought I was the only one who knew it was in such a deep place
and I became even more wide awake.
With the sense that I'd jumped across a river I turned to look,
and a girl was waving to me, smiling.
It was the girl I had hated the most.
It was the girl I had thought the ugliest thing in the world.
Yet she was waving to me, looking so beautiful and friendly.
I wanted to wave back to her,
but I had let my old arms flow away in the river, and the new ones were just beginning to grow back.
Then my journey started
but my having journeyed may have been an illusion,
the truth of the matter being that I was just looking
in the direction where the girl kept receding into the distance.
Now the girl,
far in the distance, having grown so small as to ride on my palm, is fragrant as a white flower.
The string I'd tied, then forgotten about, can't be untied.
It appears to have rusted.
Could soft silk sometimes rust?
To untie the pain of silk that has rusted, my fingers are too indexterous.
They must become far softer, far slenderer,
far slenderer, far sharper.
Everything comes after that.
On the day of my funeral I want fine rain to fall.
I want you to hold an aquamarine umbrella over my coffin.
And I want all the participants to use the same umbrellas.
That way everyone will understand me in their hearts,
all will become innocent for me.
(This being sentimentality)
On the day of my funeral it will be clear and windy.
I just hate winds.
Outside there will be cheery participants loudly gossiping about me,
and the procession will take the same road mother's and grandmother's did.
(This being nostalgia)
On the day of my funeral rain won't fall,
they won't take that road.
Like the day I became a bride I'll be taken along an unknown road, full of anxiety.
When I die, throw me in the sea, I said.
Which sea do you prefer, my child asked.
There's only one sea, so it doesn't matter where,
anywhere you want to go will be fine, I said.
Summer would be nice, I could have some fun,
I could pick up tons of seashells before coming home, she said.
I turn into a skirt,
collect my mother's blood that didn't burn up and wrap it,
or envelop the shames my father left and abuse them,
but that still leaves some sad space,
so I make an about-face, unravel all the seams, turn into a sheet of cloth,
and flutter in the wind to see what will happen.
I tore a man apart with my teeth and, soaking wet with the blood,
with the blood as my light, wandered about in my dream,
but when I awoke
mundaneness was as solid as a tough silk fabric.
With the same exasperation I had as a child wanting to know the outside of the universe,
I am now yearning for the outside of the mundane.
Sometimes I become almost deranged with the desire to tear apart the mundane with my teeth.
Does the mundane appear as a man in my dreams because I am a woman?
So I may step outside the man finally tonight,
I formulate a magic spell on my pillow before making morning preparations.
The horse licks my wound and the wound immediately turns into a petal,
a cherry-colored petal, flutter, flutter, flutter, every night a blizzard of cherry blossoms.
The horse trots away like a phantom.
Driven by my itching wound I run after the horse.
Listen, do you know a horse that trotted away like a phantom?
ourness of that wound.
When he turned twenty-five, the man pledged to his mother,
From today on I'll look after you, Mama.
When he put her on his back, there was cushiony sensuality
and she was still too heavy for him.
Seems a little too hard for you still, his mother said triumphantly
and from behind him wiped his sweat with a white handkerchief.
From then on, every morning,
singing with a voice that regained youthfulness, she makes up lightly
and puts her hands around him from behind.
As if troubled, he turns to look at her face.
She smiles like a girl,
winks, invokes a spell, and disappears,
only her weight clinging to his back even more persistently.
The man, uneasy about his mother's warmth,
works all day like a boy, cheeks flushed.
At night, when he comes home,
his mother gets off his back,
regains the gentleness of being a little old,
and makes a warm meal for him.
She sometimes sings a lullaby in the room next to where he lies.
Listening to it,
the man gradually enters into a sleep
in which he sees a slender, young mother.
Suddenly he awakens, the daytime weight on his back beginning to hurt:
there in the pitch-darkness
the old mother, the daytime mother, and the mother in his dream
are struggling in a sticky triangle, wielding obsessions,
their hair wild.
(C) Nobuko Kimura / Hiroaki Sato