from An Essay on Birthing

Akiko Yosano

As I climb into
The car, I know I am not
Coming back alive.
The hospital gate looks much
Like an execution ground.

I thrash in pain and
Become a baneful dragon.
I wail in anguish
And become a boar in pain.
How else can I endure this?

As a neonate
Tears apart its own mother
From inside out, time
Looks on indifferently,
Without compassion or care.

The healthy child wails
While the other one does not.
My conscience crashes,
Each and every bone inside
Me breaking into pieces.

The child inside me
Tears and bites at my womb
Every time it wordlessly
Thrashes its arms around,
Pain searing that shut even the devils up.

The weaker child died
Inside of my womb before
It had a chance to breath.
It fought against me, its mother.
It fought against her, its sister.

Sad is the sight of
A half-dead mother lying
Next to her unbreathing child.
A barren cold floor
Of the dim birthing room.

This child, who traded
Its own life so I can live,
Is placed inside
A wooden box as if it
Were a mere porcelain bowl.

Delirious in
Pain, in the threshold between dream
And life, I heard the news
Of still-born birth, that I gave
Birth to emptiness itself.

I curse you. I curse
You, men. Not having to give
Birth, you do not risk
Your lives to give birth like us,
Look how much freedom you have.

translated from the Japanese by Mariko Nagai