Sunday, June 1, 2008

People Who Know Pain

Reading with violinist Yumi Miyagishima at What the Dickens in Tokyo.
The Japanese use the expression "hitono itami wo wakaru/shiru" often, which means "knowing people's pain."
It's part of being a conformist society that the quality of being able to understand how others feel is valued.
But often this becomes another way of making people feel small and unaccepted because it's a way to define what's correct/not correct in a very narrow way.
I wrote this thinking partly about that, but also about the poem by Kenji Miyazawa about that character whom no one would see as a hero _ in Japan or the U.S. _ who is never after societal recognition, carrying on always _ rain or shine _ but the way Miyazawa put it in those memorable first lines: "undefeated neither by rain nor wind ..." Miyazawa is one of Japan's biggest literery figures. But as with many works in Japanese, English translations don't/can't do justice to his greatness.

People Who Know Pain

The World is divided bet-
Ween two kinds of People
The Winners and the Losers
The Takers and the Givers
The Famous and the Forgotten
The Loved and the Unloved _
Those who don't care and

People who know Pain
People who know Pain

when your tongue rolls, the
tips of my nipples, piercing
knife of betrayal

Vincent Van Gogh
John Coltrane
Garcia Marquez
Toulouse Lautrec
Billie Holliday
Richard Wright
Kenji Miyazawa

People who know Pain
People who know Pain

baby foxes dance,
leaving paw marks in the snow,
fairy tale of joy

Hermit, victim,
Outcast, untouched,
They travel faceless
Shadows on the subway
Mute, unconnected,
Unknowing of their own Pain

People who know Pain
People who know Pain

bitter memories grow
a cancer pomegranate
bleeding and rotting

I'd rather shelter that Pain alone
A powerless nobody,
Ashamed, shunned,
Stench of insignificance,
Laughing the idiot's laugh,
Running forgotten errands,
Dying before living like other

People who know Pain
People who know Pain

a zillion light years
the planet pulsates timeless
soundless universe

I'd never be that superior someone who
Conquers, fornicates, lynches,
Deposits paychecks, plans careers,
Forms opinions, writes reviews,
Weighs pros and cons, wins awards,
Attends receptions, discriminates,
Never knowing, shrugging off, how painful

People's Pain can be
People's Pain can be


Anonymous said...

Beautiful and very powerful. The world is divided indeed.

Yuri Kageyama said...