Map of the River Site of the Right Bank of the Fuji River

Clusters of Fuji City factories press on the east bank. From the stomach-shaped port hiding behind them coffee-colored substances are vomited to be discarded on the bank to the west. This mud flow of civilization is layered on the Map of the River Site of the Right Bank of the Fuji River.
The six bridges for the Tômei Expressway, the National Highway No. 1, the Tôkaidô Railway, a pipeline for industrial water, the Shinkansen, and a bypass are all arteries of Japan, and from the point where another bridge can’t possibly be built the virgin land designated as a “river site” finally begins. The sea is close by.
People must want to take flight from where a river ends. There is a hang-gliding place. You walk past it, and the fishermen who have lost their beach are doing the least they can do: to spread nets and dry shrimp on them. Around you are beach peas, convolvuluses, melancholy you climb up and there white flowering thorns[1], marsh, pampas grass, patch of miscanthus, tufts of reeds, rushes in the evening sun.
Because I come here from time to time I know human intervention is gradually affecting the original landscape of the estuary. The field of pampas grass eagles inhabited has been scythed, and the ancient mirror that was once hidden has turned into a hand mirror that reflects the sun. The delta tucked away amid the rushes once had, like a woman’s body, veins crawling and spreading all over it, but as it was sucked off by drainage canals, the woman walked away from the river.
The willful mid-river shoals were taken away, and only a single spot is left for gulls to bloom. Ducks, led from one place to another, are now given a small swamp protected by an estuary sandbar. The autumn wind has lost its fangs or its razor-sharp sword to abruptly slash at us.
I walk over the short prairie where rushes and reeds have been mowed toward the estuary where the autumn sun fully falls and ducks live. Because the sea is close by, every time there is the groan of the sea I hear ripples lapping at the roots of miscanthus and see here and there ducks sleeping with their blue color hidden, ducks preening, also ducks afloat in the distance. I remove my binoculars and take one step forward, and they dance up, flapping, all over the virgin field.
At that moment, the ducks, hung in the midst of the horizon, the water, and the sky, splendidly demonstrate the structure of the height of their habitat. Surprised, I confirm: the river site map is not a plane.
When a heron pulls its thin leg out of the mud, what it’s touching is the ground, a substance deeper than the water. It is the real mud that the heron’s soles touch, not my hips sitting in the grass, not my hand pulling a tuft off a reed.
The wind continuously talks to the flowers of the reeds, and the flowers of rushes never cease to hang round the evening sun. The skin of the beach that is like a virgin’s lips is where what is in the sky and what is in the ground leave a stamp attesting to their wedding. A skylark’s song of songs always makes a vertical musical score. A flock of ducks is a net that links themselves to sky and field.
And even on a map of a river site government officials spread before them the evening sun leaves an ineradicable stamp.
[1] Buson’s hokku: Ureitsutsu noboreba shiroki hana-ibara.


The Evening Glow

Every day, when the time comes,
we celebrate under a giant fish belly.
With drops spilling from its vermilion-gold fins
some of us dye our pots of sorrow,
some of us brocade our sashes of extravagance.
In the illusory celebration that wavers
and reflects each other
every time the fish moves,
men get drunk on the sake they have yet to drink,
virgins have ablutions of sensuality they haven’t bathed in.
Both snow and apples emit ineffable scents,
and even tottering ones glorify themselves like Christ.
After the fish moves away,
only deep-blue water is left,
and among us, the suddenly blind,
only the lip-shaped scarlet stamp mysteriously
left behind begins to shine.
Every day, when the time comes,
a giant fish comes along
and involves us in a mysterious festival
and violates us unawares.
The Real Being of Ducks
If the world is like glass,
today its mirror surface is utterly dark blue.
The sandbank with withered reeds burning yellow,
flocks and flocks of ducks swim about,
Prussian blue, green-gold.
In the distance gulls dance a rondo,
inlaying paradise.
Suddenly, however, the ducks fly up,
fly up glitteringly
from the dark-blue mirror surface,
betting on a moment’s shattering.
In the deep void peering out of what has dropped away, the cave,
was the inner side of the world.


Copyright (c) 2015 by Ogawa Anna. All rights reserved by the author and her translator.


3 Eco-Poems by Ogawa Anna of Japan, born 1919:Translated by Hiroaki Sato

 “During the postwar poverty,” Ogawa wrote, “I lost my father and three children one after another. I started writing poems while raising the two children I was endowed with after that.” She was over 50 when she published her book of poems, Nyoshin Raihai (In Praise of the Female Body), in 1970. Born in Shizuoka, she became, in 1969, a leading participant in the anti-pollution campaign against the building of a large power plant in the estuary of the Fuji River. Her second book of poems, Fujigawa Ugan Kasenshiki Chizu (Map of the River Site of the Fuji River Right Bank), in 1978, won the Shizuoka Poet prize. Ogawa Anna is the penname of Ashikawa Terue. Hiroaki Sato is a prize-winning translator of Japanese poetry and literature who was born in Japan and resides in New York.