On Prose

Kiwao Nomura

Then I
committed to memory everything
I felt compelled to remember

I don't know why I felt that way
but one winter night.
I was driving my car over the limits
along the highway that stretches west from Tokyo
hurrying to see my dying mother
but the traffic backed up
and I lost time
finally emerging from the congestion
a radio tower
crowned with radiant purple light
that eerily stained the night sky as I passed beneath it
my cell phone abruptly rang
I pulled over to the shoulder
and listened to a relative's voice tell me the hour of my mother's end
and then I noticed
that a large tanker truck
whooshed past within inches of my car
and that across the highway
inside the incandescently lit convenience store
a scattering of people were browsing magazines
and their heads looked like fly heads
and that on my side of the highway
inside the driving range already closed for the night
golf balls sprinkled on the grass
looked like mercury drops or something floating in the dark
I committed all of it to memory
compelled to remember
in other words
I lost at that moment the residue of my umbilical cord
and definitively tumbled into the world
or rather into the universe
in other words it was
the moment of my second nativity
and as though it were leaving me behind
a refrigerated truck whooshed past me
followed by a sport car
followed by another truck
then some of my own verses occurred to me:
there goes rust and lichen
there goes the soul's departing shadow
there goes the orgasm peddler again
up through the windshield
a few stars sparkled in the sky
and above all the radio tower
the radio tower
from whose apex
purple illuminations glared fiercely down at me
in a kind of swelling intensity
as if the radiance
ominously announced the calm of tomorrow
or tenderly announced the unrest of tomorrow
the purple singularly purple
thing I committed to memory
I felt compelled to remember

translated from the Japanese by Forrest Gander and Kyoko Yoshida