An Elegy, Aided By 20th Century Japanese Literature

        i.        Night on the Galactic Railroad — Miyazawa Kenji

 

grandfather is rushed to the hospital

                as I wait for him to awaken

        I sit on a leather stool beside a window overlooking

        a soulless city of iridescent noise and raucous cars

on my phone, I read the book—

        the kanji are simple, easy for one like me who speaks

        broken

        Japanese

                to understand

its themes of death,

        the endless sky,

                and liberation of true heaven

make me whisper to my unconscious grandfather, fresh from a stroke,

“this book reminded me of you.”

 

        ii.        Naomi — Tanizaki Jun’ichirō

 

we know with some degree of certainty that

he will die

                within the next few days

and I go out to a nearby mall

        and buy a book— Naomi,   Naomi,        Naomi!

it is disgustingly raunchy

        borders on the pathologically inappropriate

the English translation, though, is lyrical

        yet still so hilarious.

                I can nonetheless tell how badly

        its salaryman protagonist would love

        to live again

        to begin again

        to love again

I tell grandfather over his

                wire-tangled

        bed

                in the ICU,

“you would be so disappointed if you knew

I was reading this.”

        he’s brain-dead, he won’t care what I read

 

        iii.        Dogra Magra — Yumeno Kyūsaku

 

once his body has died with his brain

        I return to the grotesque, surrealist comforts

of eclectic creatures like Yumeno

reading it online on my phone during his

fluorescent, Sprite-filled funeral with

                hopelessly slow internet

through    my   tears, barely comprehending    complex kanji

and incomplete, aberrant

        sentences that   repeat in 

        ludicrous loops

        ludicrous loops

        ludicrous loops

presenting its message of parlous life and rebirth,   the insanity of

being       alive      and being      dead      and being in the      womb

that motivate me to lean against a

                stretcher-like thing, not quite a coffin

and screech ugly, incomprehensible sounds to match Yumeno’s

        meaningless, yet so unbelievably integral, onomatopoeia

before the memory sprints away and

        all I know is the silver-scarred dust you

        return to

        you

        return to the womb

 

now I remember what to say

        “in another life,” I tell you, “we’ll meet again.”

 

CA Russegger is a high school student from OB Montessori. CA loves visual art, writing, history, and literature very much, and spends all day with these things. Can be found with many, many stacks of books of many, many genres—Shakespeare is always a guilty pleasure.

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