from Hemflower

Maiko Sugimoto


down below my spine is a little handclap,      
neither a device nor a gift of chance,                  
I found it, one morning,
and pressed the switch (or I didn’t), 
a doctor instructed
morning and evening, two times a day at most
and I’ve followed that law, at the very least

my eyes can’t mirror the whole sky               
the sky mirrors my eyes instead
the wideview abandons                       
taking things from the past                 

“life hasn’t been all fun, never, ever
you’re being self-serving     
the past is no more than that”      

so a mouth, not mine,
bitterly, albeit matter-of-factly, asserts                            
uneven handclap wiggles through my body,
and hardens like an awakening crag in a field

your convenience, your conscience, 
your staining blood, its shape

are all confined in your body,
says the doctor,                       
needing no one’s appreciation (that’s fine),
content with those little-but-warmer-than-anything claps,      
we are all, fully, alone

Hysteric Chestnuts

red fungus, spreading in dots
hidden to all, a way to warm this
afflicted fragment was still, unknown
that which slipped right out, escaped
without even a head to shake in defiance
said something like keeew, and when
I embraced it in the bathroom, the erstwhile child washed away, disintegrating

I liked the
warmth behind a ski mask
evading the neighbours’ blithe hellos
clothes lift off of skin once I turn the key
still, these waning breasts, a thin vertical twist
the spring-loaded rod by the door is made of discarded humans

like an archer’s bow, why does this wretched, jaw-displacing burst of laughter
adhere to these gestures in the night
at the store’s doorway
a furious oy! made me turn and
see, one day, a shadow run by with hysteric chestnuts
distinctly off, the way thieves run,
quick, give it to me

Sleeping Women

breathing of the sleeping women in a shared bedroom
ever unsynchronised, gradually, transforms
into conversation,
stirred air,
plays with bangs, to be                
an insomniac, an outcast,                 
by that declaration in the dead of night
whether we’re always alone,
or, please                                                   
converse, bringing one who sleeps to the river, barefoot
to dance, to play ducks and drakes
god forbid
and your whereabouts, ladies, have yet to be disclosed
by the Kinugawa river, whose course is gradually enclosed, shall
solidarity be brought into being, quietly, maybe
one, two, flocks of sheep have obscured our being,
so we, with guilty conscience,
have slaughtered so many of them (haven’t we?), as a dream, like a sentence
is given only once,
I’ll roll those weighty female bodies
and move them like snaking logs,
—and those faintest snores, breaking voices,
even a whispering rustle of cloth, I shall
inspect them all, for tomorrow, when
I return them to you, gentlemen

translated from the Japanese by Sim Yee Chiang and Sayuri Okamoto

excerpted from Susobana (Shichōsha, 2014), by permission of Maiko Sugimoto and Shichōsha