Poems in Translation by Takako Lento


Yasuhiro Yotsumoto

My wife and her mother, or
My mother-in-law, sit side by side
Watching children play
They say a few words to each other
And laugh, twisting themselves
Then all at once they are silent

Like wind-blown reeds

In that moment, an ancient mask
Covers the lingering smile
Like a barren field where a single seed of anger is buried

Like a lake, its water filled with unfathomable resignation

In their silence they share
Blood, snake, and fruit
Secrets like penalties

Inflicted only on those who delivered life into this world

A small child tries to mount a lamb and almost tumbles
Two women quickly hold out their hands
Such a scene, from two thousand years ago
Looms in a ray of the morning sun
In this morning’s grotto

Inside the picture frame Brueghel’s 

Yasuhiro Yotsumoto

Inside the picture frame
Brueghel’s villagers are dancing
Men and women, locking arms
Every time they turn each other round and round

The mugs hanging from their belts clink and clink

Under the tree over there
A drunken man purses out his lips
The woman averts her face, laughing

Both their buttocks are bulky, ready to burst

We’ve never been like them
Dancing in joyous abandon
Coming together and moving apart 
To a rhythm

Like surging waves

It’s not that we always

Got here sober, but

In the mattress of our bed
Two slight dents are carved side by side 
When we are deeply asleep
Another pair, man and woman, begin to dance
Smoldering blood from the tips of toes

For Madonna della Seggiola

Inuo Taguchi

I.  Raphael’s Madonna

Raphael’s Madonna 
Greets me from inside the circle
As if to tell me
To wake to the truth that
God, love, and the cosmos are

All circles

We all are
Given birth outside the circle
(No one is born inside the circle)
Our entire lives are devoted
To getting into the circle

II.   The Atelier inside the Circle

He did not paint it from outside the circle
The artist painted this picture

From inside the circle

Because in order to paint this picture
Perfect love and peace were 
More so than any other painting supplies

III.        Calling

The little child, innocent still 
Calls out from inside the circle
Begging us to try

Transcending this world

Saying that wealth, power, fame
Everything outside the circle is

A sheer illusion

IV         Infinite Love

Why is it?
Madonna and Child and Johannes are
All locked
Inside the circle, yet

They don’t seem confined at all

Those who believe that
This world is the whole of the universe

Can’t even fathom that

The infinite world that transcends our life
Must be inside the circle
The world of love that transcends our life

Must extend into the depths of the circle

Yotsumoto’s original poems are from Tsuma no ugen (Starboard of My Wife) © 2006 Yotsumoto Yasuhiro

Taguchi’s original poems are from Haidon na asa (Haydn Morning) © 2021 Inuo Taguchi / Nanarokusha Publishing Co.

English translation from Japanese: © 2022 Takako Lento

Starboard of My Wife and Haydn Morning are scheduled to be published in Takako Lento’s translation in 2023 from Vagabond Press

Takako Lento translates poetry and prose from Japanese to English and vice versa, her most recent collections being Shuntaro Tanikawa’s Ordinary People (2021) and Shinkawa Kazue’s Selected Poems (2021), both with Vagabond Press. Her recent books of translation and critical essays include Tamura Ryuichi, on the Life and Work of a 20th Century Master (co-ed. Wayne Miller); The Art of Being Alone: Tanikawa Shuntaro, Poems 1952-2009Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson (with W.S. Merwin); Pioneers of Modern Japanese Poetry, and Butterfly by Kashiwagi Mari. She lives in the United States.

Mr. Yotsumoto was born in Osaka in 1959. He is a poet, novelist, literary critic,  founding editor of poetryinternational.org/Japan, multimedia producer of poetry reading events. He has published thirteen books of poetry, two novels, and two books of literary criticism.  He has received many distinguished awards for his books of poetry. He has lived in Japan, Germany, and U.S.

Mr. Taguchi was born in 1967 in Kyoto. He attended Keio University’s School of Literature; graduated from Western Maryland College. His books of poems include General Moo (awarded the 31st Takami Jun Prize, 2001) and St Francis’ Birds (2008). “He explains why it took him twelve years to publish Haydn Morning:  Emerson said, ‘Every wall is a door.’ For me, my illness turned out to be the door. It took more than ten years for it to open.” He lives in Tokyo.

“Our idea in calling this the ‘Translator’s Page’ is to show the ways and/or languages in which a translator works. Monthly posts may include translations from different languages and styles and centuries. The connective thread between them is the ability of the translator to interpret cultures and time periods for the contemporary reader.” —Jonathan Wells, curator of The Translator’s Page