Yoshioka Minoru: Prose Poems from Monks (1958) (tr. Eric Selland)

A Comedy

In the corner of the kitchen     an egg with its back ripped open looms     near the coast of a long night     a man who was sleeping stands up     on his shoulder sits a cat wearing a hat     the man digs a hole for his wife who is dying     a pushcart loaded with food and money leaves from the opposite side     bed legs and various fixtures clog the road     because the man strokes it while wailing     the figures of mice dissolve in the cat’s throat like grapes     extinguishing the moon straight ahead     the trees in the forest turn round from afar     before long they are covered in snow     calling the man and the cross-eyed cat back to a small room     but they do not walk     already the man pours wine into a glass in front of the fireplace     meanwhile the cat has been running around the attic     so the man, who is sensitive to cold, goes after the shedding cat     the man averts his gaze from the brightness of the completely naked cat     birds peering in from the window at night take the shape of the dead wife’s hair, so he shoots them all down     eventually the man lets go of the cat’s legs     what those wavelike hands sink into is a crock of intensified yellow butter     fascinated by this dangerous microbe culture     the man puts on a doctor’s whiskers and begins to sweat     inadvertently the cat breaks the glass     no doubt at that moment the man was saved     the finger in the aerosol spray stops the rise of the amoebas     they devolve into human hands     so splendorous blood spurts out from between the broken pieces     now he feels the need to carry a heavy object     the man looks around the room     he is surprised to find himself surrounded by scissors and solid furniture     then the parts that cannot get hurt     feet, face, genitalia and so on, suddenly handled with great care     a sturdy leather pouch from which     the man never again appears


What I do not know     I do not say to others     furthermore I do not walk around the plaster produced by the voices of other people     it’s just when I try to touch with a short handled axe     which gathers in the force of the whole I get nervous     if something is standing     I push it on top of a rock until it falls over     if something is lying down I jump on it     if something is turning I wind it up with my hand     until it gnaws into my blackened flesh     and then yields a passageway to the exodus of the desolate column of moths and blood vessels     if it were a woman I’d toss it back in her eye     I’ll wait patiently until she fills with consummate suppleness and a cold lake     food I will throw up     chopping off the heads of chickens and fish one after the other and tossing them     into the darkness beneath the table where bottles and flasks have sunk and disappeared     I separate the useful objects from those that are unwanted     but errors are within the realm of possibility     when that happens I wipe away the foam of feathers and fish scales     and try to see what’s happening outside the glass window     children jumping rope     the mass of a smokestack giving birth to one night     finally at the call of the trees sleeping in layers of their own grain     I rush out     taking the shape of a single nude figure     a dark image personifying training and endurance     rain-soaked I go     of these facts here I can tell the others

The Island

Going ashore on the island     the man finds amongst the crags     large arched fragments of bones belonging to beasts and fish     bleached by the sun as it rotates     the shrunken map  of a black octopus head     the coast of the eyes of the man who gradually becomes horizontal     is like the acute angle of the moonrise     let us forget     now in extremely high-definition     the eggs of the seabirds advance     why is there no music at a time like this     so when the arc of insomnia takes shape     the distant hands and feet the man flings out barely move     on this occasion from the lower extremity     the dimensions of the island begin to narrow     this place is most certainly the nest of tomorrow’s setting sun     for the phantom birds who do not take flight     magnified at the man’s side     the entire surface of the eggs exposed to the intense light     search as one may, not a trace of even one fingernail of the adventurous human can be found     he does not choose     this Atlas     from the interior of a skinny womb the man     squeezes a bit of voice and some blood     on the other side the winter waves continue to slip along the insulating material


The bare feet inside the cat’s fur as it jumps from atop the chair     a fleeting moment     but we get this now in a huge close-up     then it’s all sucked into the deep folds of a flower     anyone would be surprised being it’s the first time     the four wooden legs     limp across the floor for awhile     and then suddenly stop in a corner of the room     the chair becomes legend     now a man who knows nothing of the incident     appears from beneath a blanket     and sits down in the chair     breaking through the circulating heat and odor     he begins in earnest to trace the tube leading to the anus     but the rubber is uncontrollable and becomes bulky     it takes over the entire room wriggling around     the pulsing of objects     the expansion and contraction of pleasure     because it is night     the man has been side by side with the cat for a long time now     surrounded by the tubing     it becomes darker     he holds his breath     then at the final moment before disappearance     he shouts “fire!”

A Picture of Winter

There are things in my room invisible to others     for instance placed between the bed legs and the wall     are the rubber boots I took off a week ago     one has fallen over and become bent out of shape     while the other remains simply standing     only the rain within the secret meeting of my memory is wet     and only under my bed of bad habits is it dry     and cracked     the proprietress of the boarding house visits my room for one reason only     this is when the cat comes to have her kittens     the thick bundle of fur which is its tail rubs against the floor     all night until the following morning the proprietress maneuvers her black broom     I become sick completely     and below the covers imitate a shrimp     the proprietress is one who dwells on land     she puts on her slippers     and the seaweed trembles     she is unaware of the signs of the ocean’s damp starfish opening and closing in the shadows of the rocks     she leaves with the six newborn kittens stuffed into a cardboard box     I open the bay window leaning toward night just a little     this is the most important part of my daily routine     the proprietress disrobes     and revives the body temperature and resilience of the six kittens sunken in the river     and spills the water from the bathtub     this is a danger to me     for amongst my belongings     are the canvases of a painter who committed suicide     leaning precariously against the wall     which I find     along the stairway leading upstairs and down     only this can withstand the light     those pictures may be the only thing that will protect me     from the rose-colored earthquake of the proprietress’ buttocks     those compositions of anger     painted without reserve by a man who was a destitute painter     exhausted stone torsos      both distant and near     they attempt to embark blindly     from the depths to which they have fallen


With no warning the man died     his wife having nothing but hatred     for the man with the tremendous protruding tailbone     considering his eyes his tongue shone coldly     and his wife, a woman of ample breasts, could not stand it     except for when he ate     his movements were extremely sluggish     or rather absent you might say     especially when he was asleep     evoking the sensation of that part of a plant which never bears flowers     that man could be dragged away by a spider’s thread     and take the form of a gruesome figure on the ground     but to his dead wife this matters little     she simply tosses food to the dog kept on the other side of the wall     day in and day out ceaselessly with her undulating hands     this false testimony genuinely prevents the wife from dying     the cat who has inherited her sterling qualities is covered in snow on the roof     chagrined that she is still alive     if only her bellows could sufficiently stretch from out of the darkness     and thrust back into the room the man walks around in     the odds would be in her favor    and because she has become pregnant with a plaster fetus     the dog takes personal care of the man     fooling around and making him laugh     but he cannot perform the sweet operations that ought to follow     in order to go on living the man     calls the dead wife’s cat back in from the roof where only dust falls     and thinks he should train it to perform some tricks     rather than worldly affairs     he makes the cat up like a beautiful woman     and on the first night warms it up in bed     causing a moon to rise of a kind preferred by those who have died by drowning     dangling a ribbon of lightning     summer comes     raising a shout that ought to make you appreciate     the posture of a naked woman and the disgrace of a half-ripe peach gasping below the leaves     will the man die simply because it is proof that he is human     his head excites the dog     and with the lower part of his body covered in cat hair     he is taken from the great nation of sweat     to a chilly remote village where he is buried


My distorted view is a discomfort to many     sometimes I shave the stem of a plant     and discover a tragic rose-colored family that does not grow     unfolding from the incision     drinking no water     even the rays of light cannot laugh loud     the thin membrane of man and woman    the faint sound of copulation     pollen soils the wall and bedclothes     almost like hard coarse granules to the touch     and for this reason the child does not run through the toy car world     its playground is its mother’s womb     on the lower shelf of a shady sponge cucumber     there he glides by     I quickly head for the countryside     my belief is that things should be solid and stable     I and the compound eyes of a dragonfly simultaneously advance on an ax just propped up     sparing nothing     I copy the entire figure in the running shirt     bearing the burden of an asymmetrical rainbow and a mountain’s pyramid of ice     I dislike all kinds of soft frogs     hard wings     or hard rain I will caress with both hands     as an experiment I will kick a bottle     I come into town in such ecstasy     people can hardly believe it     I strike a stone wall outside a bombed-out temple     this above all is high class entertainment     I follow a young expectant mother on her way to the hospital     gradually I climb uphill and the color boundaries of the stripes on the stone begin to point inward     drawing a thin line as they move along     and at the slippery summit when I can no longer stand it     I show my white belly     this is when the doctors laugh     early evening of fire for which bells are rung wildly     forceps and moving scissors stretch the skin     all around the dandelions of wet seeds     which go to meet the head inside the sack     are painfully plucked     and fat is splattered all over the clean running shirt     seeing true solidity I become anxious     I overlook the irresponsible soldier of coarse blood      advancing along the tracts of the body with fragile underside     and so I leave town     the wind changes me into frozen person or slippery object     that’s why I never laugh     and never say goodbye


Chewing on pickled scallions     that’s the time I’m partial to     nestled in the deep folds of a hospital ward blanket     I wait patiently     neither for treatment nor for death     but for the splendor of consumption     it is April     the bees wiggle their hips     in fields and in skin laden with pollen     the moon in its final days of erotic desire draws near     since my crushed thighbone brings perpetual leisure     I listen to the music of blood     undergo phosphorization     or discharge my vitality    and then as a black staff     show a scene from a deserted pastoral landscape     pushed into a mountain of straw     raising no cries of love     two crows are made to fly off     my sister visits me frequently     and praises the malignant disease of the neighboring patient     she strikes my lowered head     momentarily attracting the explosion of a pomegranate     I take a walk in the garden which is always frozen     rather than the many cranes and flocks of nurses     I approach an ugly woman     I agitate her womb with an inelegant dictionary and voluptuous dreams     next I take a whiff of an intense drug     in a flash I am anointed with the balm of rebirth     and assailed by a gradual death     the notion of ready-made apparel is lost     and I fall on my knees     in the form of a camel which the woman believed since childhood     to be a disgusting animal     annoyances occur in every walk of life     atop the stretcher upon which I am carried out     it is a dawn in which the chafing of starched flesh and bone begins     my thirst is mediated through my eyes     and overflows from the swamp of ice beginning to melt     I get wet up to my tail like an embryonic fish     and all in one gulp drink the water down to the last drop

A Beautiful Journey

The aged waiter clears away the dishes and then leaves     rather than exiting through the door he is absorbed by a sphere in the evening glow     he leaves behind the blue die of his off-the-shelf trousers     in a corner of the brightly polished cabin floor     a man and woman in bed are like two tapeworms     the tremendous waves of napkins     the old waiter will surely die as a result of the intensity of the agitation     he rides horseback on a spoon stripped bare of its plating     leaving on a journey to a strange land of beautiful minerals     rotting meat and vegetables     and the supple movements of thin sheets of wood     cause the old waiter to fly off into the jagged edges of the shredded sky     goodbye     mob of nightsticks     everyday of sacks     ocean of boxes     an aerial view gives you a good grasp     the melodrama of fire     end of the lonely ritual of thunderstorm     the old waiter fetches a warm meal with dexterous hands     later when his nap goes on too long who will rebuke him     who indeed is most familiar with the ways of the dead     by chance at the very moment the old waiter gets up gold buttons scatter everywhere     and he searches throughout the area where they roll away     he takes revenge in spite of himself     making a loud noise at the bottom of the sea     for the first time in his life the old waiter pees in his pants     facing the dead multitude of customers in the shade of the duckweed     he reverently apologizes     in order to dream the long dream of the future     one must endure both disorder and disgrace     now a great success the aged waiter grows fat and enters the secret stone pavilion     briefly he is dazzled by a golden-haired beauty     the moon comes around under the wine barrel     this just may be a bad-mannered graveyard


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