This Person’s Already… (by Tanikawa Shuntaro)

Today marks three full revolutions we’ve made around the sun since the great earthquake which devastated the Tohoku region of Japan. With death on the mind this solemn day I’ve translated this poem. Let’s remember that those who died still live on, though we may never enjoy the pleasure of their conversation again.
~苦栗鼠

This Person’s Already…

Tanikawa Shuntaro (tr. C. E. Zambrano)

This person’s already dead? No way
I speak and she says nothing in return, but that’s happened before
Who knows what about, but there was a time she was lost in thought
staring fixedly at the garden overgrown with weeds—but
at that time she was alive

But that image of her, a dark mass seen from behind, is still vivid before my eyes
and that face—stoic like a mask—I only glimpsed, but can’t forget it
Compared to that, the dead face now looks more alive
There are people who are dead even as they live
so aren’t there also those who live even though they are dead?
Denied of the animals, perhaps this is humanity’s special privilege

I remember, of course, the image of this person laughing cheerfully—
how she waved her arms,
the wrinkles on her forehead–
What a memory

But this person who at that time didn’t answer though she wasn’t dead
and the garden overgrown with weeds
they are not memories, and so
even now I am waiting for this person to say something for me

*****

Original:

この人はもう
谷川俊太郎

この人はもう死んだのか噓みたい
話しかけても返事をしないがそんなことは何度もあった
なんだか知らないが考えこんでいて
じっと草ぼうぼうの庭を見ていたこともあったが
あのときは生きていた

でも黒い塊みたいな後姿ははっきりぼくの目に残っていて
ちらっと見た仮面のように無表情な顔も忘れることが出来ない
それに比べれば今の死顔のほうがまだ生きているように見える
生きてるのに死んでることが人にはある
だとすれば死んでるのに生きてることもあるんじゃないか
もしかするとそれは動物にはない人間だけの特権だ

この人が朗らかに笑っていた姿をもちろんぼくは覚えている
そのときの腕の振りかたや
おでこのしわの
思い出

けれど死んではいないのに返事をしなかったあの時のこの人と
草ぼうぼうの庭は
思い出ではないから
今でもぼくはこの人が何か言ってくれるのを待っている

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