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Poem by Saclaco Enomoto (trans. Eric Selland)

Saclaco Enomoto (trans. Eric Selland)

Amber Solar System: Helvetica Activity

(On the Beach when We Were Always Drowning)

It’s not as if the wind is blowing, but this spring, the sun’s light shines on the phantom railroad tracks drawn along the wet topographic map, and in that whirl of life, of the breathing in and out of all manner of living things, the invisible subway rolls down from the rugged cliffs on the edge of the city cut by an endless river. The place where the birds of sorrow[1] nest, where the amber solar system, and our confusion spreading radially mixed with snow, dance above the waves. Shimmering pulse from the huge radio tower drawn into the mirror in the blink of an eye, a suspicious code that no one can decipher reflects off the surface of the fighter jet, and is blown away to the distant sombrero galaxy. A sequence that has lost its meaning, esquis of the gene sequence of ferns and bryophytes, all of these in a clipping of the newspaper weather column inserted in the linear natural history picture book to which clings a flock of small shrimp wrapped in fine bubbles. When spawning season comes, pulp dances in the sky glittering in all the colors of the rainbow, and on the tips of the thin, pointed fibers, the cursive alphabet is creating a stir and won’t stop. From the string-shaped space the faint sound of a leak can be heard, the envy of the horned beasts and their voices crying in pain of hunger, accompanied by the gasping of those covering the earth. They begin walking toward the semitransparent city which appears on the reverse side of the map, when their seven daughters with wilted legs are deprived of their eyes by the female basking sharks swimming all over the streets, then on the suits of the bald men straddling the guardrail, countless frays and lint like pinworms seem to be drawing the alleyways sewn into that narrow, submerged city full of scabs. Reasonably tall in stature, he stands on the shore of a nameless underground lake, the lover whose appearance has become ragged, chewing on a lamb chop, and a water tank with a quivering image. Next the earphones or headphones whose copper wire wrapped in vinyl appears pale beyond the long coastline along with the legendary continental balance of the huge base and even larger cephalopods whose clockwork tentacles fitted with suction cups are reflected in the back mirror of a taxi running on the road at midnight so that in the connection between people's memories and bodies made up of water and mud, what did you reach out to kill then?






Enomoto Saclaco received the Gendaishi Techo prize in 2011. Her poetry collections include Straddling the Multiplying Eyes, Don’t Take Aspirin on an Empty Stomach, Röntgen: A Submerged Flower Pot, and Lontano. Saclaco is unusual in Japan’s poetry scene because of her fundamentally oppositional stance towards literature and society as a whole. This is not only due to the experimental nature of her work (a structurally and semantically dense prose poetry), but because of the fact that she is openly a transsexual, and is willing to speak publicly on this and other taboo subjects. She lives in Saitama Prefecture.


Eric Selland has translated Modernist and contemporary Japanese poets for nearly forty years. He is currently editing an anthology of Japanese Modernist and avant-garde poetry with poet and translator Sawako Nakayasu. New translations include The Day Laid Bare by Kiwao Nomura and Kusudama, by Minoru Yoshioka (both on Isobar Press). His latest collection of poems is Object States (Theenk Books, 2018). Eric has translated a number of contemporary novels as well, including The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide. He lives in Tokyo with his wife and a black shiba named Ku.



[1] The Birds of Sorrow, a Noh play attributed to Zeami, in which the ghost of a hunter asks for forgiveness for having devoted his life to killing.

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