Kiji Kutani: Two Poems

ALIEN NIGHT

The smell of my own sweat
emerges from the nightshirt folds
with the scent of a stranger,
brushes against my skin like a bar of moist soap
and flees torward the dark ceiling:
memories of weight.

“Remember the rabbits
you left behind in this room
on the morning of the sixth day
after landing here on Earth?
They’re still jostling
in good shape
in the ark-shaped tank.”
Face pressed into the pillow,
I murmur the words
as if someone were there.

I’m turning half alien:
to my eyes now,
even the night sky out the window
is as dazzling
as the midwinter sun.

Beyond the tremulous mists
of drowsiness,
I witness
the timorous quaking
of a tiny bell
in the recesses of my desk drawer,
set off perhaps by the approach of a UFO.

Wrapped snugly
in a blanket
I fold myself over,
grasp my ankles,
and just like that,
my preparations for liftoff from Earth
are done. If only
I’d been born
in a world
like that . . .

The final remnants of
memories of weight
float up, as light as
the exhalations of water grasses,
and dissolve in the grain of the wood ceiling.
When morning comes round again
I’ll stand and face them
with my grilled-fish eyes
as they scurry
beneath the delicate rays of the sun.

COQUETTISH GLANCES

No doubt about it,
the inside of a train
cooks things to a turn.
The bald head
of that fellow sitting beside me
and the slender, wobbly legs
of the little girl catty-corner from me on the right
simmered to a juicy pulp,
dissolved in sunlight
slanting through the windows
and spilled along the floor at a crawl,
slower than a walk.
The one holdout is
the young woman
sitting directly across from me
holding on tight
to an angular package wrapped in a bright red bandanna.
Every now and then she crosses and re-crosses her legs in various ways —
legs that might stay smooth and white
however much you peeled them —
eyeing me all the while.
Her two eyeballs
protruding
from an expression of no apparent temperature
are on the verge of pouring melted light
into every crevice in my swaying body.
(I mustn’t fall for it)
That’s no look of invitation,
but proof she’s cooked up tender on the bone,
eyes first. There —
the moment the train pulled into Koiwa,
she turned soundlessly into a translucent morsel
and came sliding towards my feet
at a snail’s pace.
FROM POETRY INTERNATIONAL WEB, TRANSLATED BY JULIET WINTERS CARPENTER
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