the body is a path
in fetal position
i have fought in wars without guns
i have heard the wind holler
raw meat bones i have licked
and i have vomited on soldier dung
still i am no more than everything
condensed into my mind
divided houses within houses within one
Note: This poem was written on L.S.D. in Ibiza, Spain, in 1970 during the U.S.A. war in Vietnam.
If you visit Vietnam, no one calls it the “Vietnam War,” it’s universally acknowledged as the “American War.” I imagine the same is true in Iraq and Afghanistan. Calling the wars by the invaded countries’ names creates a dangerous linguistic displacement of responsibility and disallows an essential connecting of the dots to show that there have continually been American Wars for decades, already for over a century.
Americans keep discussing peace and anti-war efforts, but I believe that nothing would scare most Americans more than 20+ years of continual peace. Imagine the weaponry that couldn’t be tested on actual battlefields. America will not stop making wars, because its military edge would be put into question, and which party or vested interest would approve?
In the near future, Americans will have to learn to live with the U.S.A. at war as I have for most of the past 50 years. Despite the desire for peace in many citizens, historically, anti-intellectualism and brute violence have always been hallmarks of America’s real politik “exceptionalism” on the world stage.
Three translations of Japanese poet Kitasono Katue (1902-78)
Excerpt from Concept #999
let everything be a symbol of ruin
let everything decay in the realm of cursed existence
so–––––I put on a tinplate cap
then walked towards the city
neither night nor day, behind pale lightrays
with the dullness of a slapped-down instant, I walked on
I whispered, and from my enamel-colored belt pulled out a plunger
gripped it tightly
and an ozone smell wafted to my nose
“ah it’s summer”
then I tore to shreds my silver-paper necktie
In a Lost City
piercing through the brain
violet colored light flashes
thrown on exhausted insides of white bones
from where a truly wretched peace was born.
I probably won’t forget this instant for eternity
the entire capital is raised to the ground
together with blazing flames
those dandy, cocksure,
loveable city people have perished.
yesterday suffering the despotism of militarists
today wandering in the tyranny of appetite
nothing but a mob covered with rags.
I slightly climb up a heap of bricks
before this unsightly page of history
without tears, what
what can we scream?
taking hands, crossing knees
tearfully gnawing on hopeless bones, what else to do?
blown in the bleak autumn wind
I appeal to heaven
to make this stupid century pass even I moment sooner!
with the sound of the rain
I smelled yellow plum blossoms
even the wind rose
as night grew late
I opened a poetry book
and read some
of my friend’s poems
violet fields came to mind
distant mountains and rivers
then I got tired
ran out of thoughts
I went to a dark room
and slept like the wind
Kitasono Katue poetry, © Hashimoto Sumiko, 2007. English translations © John Solt, 2007. Used with permission.