3 Poems from “62 Sonnets” (1953)
I won’t let words rest.
At times they feel ashamed of themselves
and want to die, inside of me.
When that happens I’m in love.
In a world otherwise silent
people—only people— chatter away.
What’s more, sun and trees and clouds
are unconscious of their beauty.
A fast-flying plane flies in the shape of human passion.
Though the blue sky pretends to be a backdrop,
in fact there’s nothing there.
When I call out, in a small voice,
the world doesn’t answer.
My words are no different from those of the birds.
I grew unwittingly apart
from the world in which I was born
and can no longer walk again
among the things of the earth.
We know that even love is a possession,
but we can’t keep from praying
that life will go on.
And we accept the poverty of our prayers.
I can possess nothing,
though I love
trees, clouds, people.
I can only discard
my overflowing heart—
hesitant to call that an act of love.
It’s distance that makes
Looked at closely,
they start to resemble me.
Vast panoramas stop people in their tracks
and make them conscious of the engulfing distances.
Those very distances make people
the people they are.
Yet people can also contain distances
which is why they go on yearning…
They soon find they’re just places violated by distances,
and no longer observed.
They have then become scenery.
Shuntaro Tanikawa is a Japanese poet and translator. His book Floating the River in Melancholy (trans. William I. Eliot and Kazuo Kawamura) won the American Book Award. He has also translated Charles Schultz’s Peanuts into Japanese.