Biography of Chimako Tada
Chimako Tada (多田智満子 Tada Chimako?, April 1, 1930 – January 23, 2003) was a Japanese poet renowned for her surreal style and evocation of women's experience in post-war Japan. She authored more than 15 books of Japanese poetry, and also translated prose and poetry from French. Tada wrote in traditional styles, such as tanka and haiku, as well as contemporary prose poetry.
Chimako Tada Poems
A Spray Of Water: Tanka [the Round Spoon...
the round spoon with the curvature of a concave mirror scoops out my eye
A Spray Of Water: Tanka [the Hot Water I...
the hot water in the abandoned kettle slowly cools still carrying the resentment
Person Of The Playful Star: Tanka [i Lis...
I listen to songs of someone handsome at the apex of night the Milky Way overflows
A Spray Of Water: Tanka [one Narcissus]
one narcissus draws close to another like the only
The moonstone woman combs her hair Blind even before birth She lives only within her own light There is the sound of an earthenware jar cracking And water flows down a long staircase Into the depths of a murky violet hole When she lights a lamp in loneliness She senses dogs crouching At the four corners of the earth The woman will someday go beyond the tower Crossing corridors of gathering clouds Led by fish with lidless eyes But now, she holds sour fruit in her mouth And combs the moonlight Sitting swallowed in shadow
With flies that speak the language of men She inhabits these mountains Collecting innocent stones And building aimless stupas (This is playing with karma in sand) Her eyes shine the color of amber Each evening she plucks centipedes from the wall And encloses them in bottles of oil (In ten years, they will melt away And leave perfectly clear oil The same color as my eyes) Sometimes she plucks a metaphor An amaranth from the shade And dresses its leaves for dinner For fifty years she has lived here Conversing with the flies (Shall I remove my cloak before long?) Butterflies the color of dead leaves Return to soil the color of dead leaves While the woman, the color of a corpse Kneads earth, the color of a corpse Into a doll of indeterminate sex (In one hundred years I will have crumbled away Becoming just clean, light sand Both the doll and me as well) Then someone will collect the sand once again To construct another game of karma One morning when heaven grows distant from the land The cicada shell will shed itself and return to the wind In any case, I present a flower as offering The black lily blooms Releasing its faint, foul aroma
BOYS OF SUMMER
1 On earth where many bare feet have run We boys stretch out We exchange embraces with no one But we are more complete than any future 2 We boys hang down Upon swings at the height of day Our slight yawns Like a ripening akebia fruit 3 Long ago, we boys left a fountain And now go in all directions through the square The sun which has lost its eyelids watches The same radiant dream over and over again 4 With the soles of our feet, we kick up waves And we leave along the muddy shore Our arms reach further and further ahead Perhaps toward the deep blue of the ancient sea 5 Turning the earth with our father's bones, we spread young seeds And cultivate summer upon cetacean memories Each era gets its own forest Each era gets its own graveyard 6 As if creating cairns, we stack The corpses of cicadas caught during vacation And with our butterfly nets over our shoulders We depart for another, even taller summer
Spilling twinkling droplets of light The child crawls upward Into a world still free of furrows He somersaults forward The hourglass turns over And a new era begins He picks up stars to skip like stones Ancient fish flap their fins and laugh Splashing the feet of the gods * In due time the child grows tall His memory grows heavy The world becomes full of his footprints And with a yawn The child leaves for somewhere unknown With the sun still stuck, dead, in his pocket
LEGEND OF THE SNOW
And then, the snow finally started to fall After the wind and rain and sand Stopping all the clocks in the town The snow slowly accumulated Upon the towers of ill will Upon the ramparts of mistrust Upon the ruts of wheels mired in black mud Wrapped in a cocoon of snow The town became legend A grave of white pumice riddled with holes bored By spirits the shape of glowworms . . . (No matter how sick and worn The old all become beautiful with death) Where was reconciliation? The town of mankind forgot its weight And sent a precarious bloom Atop a single trembling stalk Where it continually unfolded, petal after white petal (Like a deep and gentle wound That becomes the stage for the divine) Where was prayer? After the wind and rain and sand The snow finally began to fall Blanketing white nights with white days Without end
I am planted in the earth Happily, like a cabbage Carefully peel away the layers of language That clothe me and soon It will become clear I am nowhere to be found And yet even so, my roots lie beneath . . .
THE TOWER OF VEGA
Carved around the tower of Vega Which soars high into the night Are tens of thousands of stars, each a cuneiform letter - Who carved this and when, using a sapphire stylus how sharp? These letters bestow their meaning to the desert and sea Which sleep with closed eyes Their meaning is quietly snatched Like ice stealing bodily warmth From Man who lives with eyes half-open Pythagoras probably read these inscriptions Shepherds probably read them too And well as slaves rowing their masters' galleys But inside the shining spire Humanity smiles happily Letting its meaning slip away - Who built this and when, creating this purified void to the zenith of heaven? We grow suspicious of the hushed, sanguine warmth of the body That has failed to melt away completely into the crystal currents of air
From a Woman of a Distant Land
1 In this country, we do not bury the dead. We enclose them like dolls in glass cases and decorate our houses with them. People, especially the cultivated ones from old families, live surrounded by multitudes of dignified dead. Our living rooms and parlors, even our dining rooms and our bedrooms, are filled with our ancestors in glass cases. When the rooms become too full, we use the cases for furniture. On top of where my twenty-five-year-old great-grandmother lies, beautiful and buried in flowers, we line up the evening soup bowls. 2 We do not sing in chorus. When four people gather, we weave together four different melodies. This is what we call a relationship. Such encounters are always a sort of entanglement. When these entanglements come loose, we scatter in four directions, sometimes with relief, sometimes at wit's end. 3 I wrote that we scatter in four directions, but I did not mean that we merely return home, scattering from one another like rays of light radiating from a single source. When there is no more need to be together, we scatter in four different directions, but none of us ever breaks the horizon with our tread. Because people are afraid at the thought of their feet leaving the earth, we turn around one step before reaching the horizon. After thirty years, those faces we wished to see never again enter our fields of vision. 4 In this country, everyone fears midday. In the daytime, the dead are too dead. Bathed in the sharp view of the sun, our skin crawls, and we shudder. When the nights, vast and deaf, vast and blind, descend with size great enough to fill the distances between us, we remove our corsets and breathe with relief. When we lie down to sleep at the bottom of the darkness, we are nearly as content as the corpses around us. 5 The sight of fresh new leaves scares us. Who is to say that those small buds raising their faces upon the branches are not our own nipples? Who is to say that the soft, double blades of grass stretching from the wet earth are not the slightly parted lips of a boy? 6 In the springtime, when green begins to invade our world, there is no place for us to take refuge outside, and so we hide in the deepest, darkest recesses of our houses. Sometimes we crane our necks from where we hide between our dead brothers, and we gaze at the green hemisphere swelling before our eyes. We are troubled by many fevers; we live with thermometers tucked under our arms. Do you know what it means to be a woman, especially to be a woman in this country, during the spring? When I was fifteen, becoming a woman frightened me. When I was eighteen, being a woman struck me as loathsome. Now, how old am I? I have become too much of a woman. I can no longer return to being human; that age is gone forever. My head is small, my neck long, and my hair terribly heavy. 7 We can smile extremely well. So affable are our smiles that they are always mistaken for the real thing. Nonetheless, if by some chance our smiles should go awry, we fall into a terrible state. Our jaws slacken, and our faces disintegrate into so many parts. When this happens, we cover our faces with our handkerchiefs and withdraw. Shutting ourseleves alone in a room, we wait quietly until our natural grimace returns. 8 During our meals, sometimes a black, glistening insect will dart diagonally across the table. People know perfectly well where this giant insect comes from. When it dashes between the salad and the loaf of bread, people fall silent for a moment, then continue as if nothing had happened. The insect has no name. That is because nobody has ever dared talk about it. 9 Three times each day, all of the big buildings sound sirens. The elementary schools, theaters, and even the police stations raise a long wail like that of a chained beast suffering from terrible tedium. No matter where one is in this country, one cannot escape this sound—not even if one is making love, not even if one peering into the depths of a telescope. Yes, there are many telescopes in this country. There is always a splendid telescope at each major intersection in town. People here like to see things outside of their own country. Every day many people, while looking through the lens of one of these telescopes, are struck by stray cars and killed. 10 When the faint aroma of the tide wafts upon the wind into town, people remember that this country lies by the sea. This sea, however, is not there for us to navigate; it is there to shut us in. The waves are not there to carry us; they continue their eternal movement so we will give up all hope. Like the waves that roll slowly from the shore, we sigh heavily. We throw our heads back, then hang them in resignation. We crumple to the ground, our skirts fanning over the dunes... 11 Ignorant of all this, trading ships laden with unknown products, move into the harbor. People speak in unknown languages; unknown faces appear and disappear. Ah, how many times have I closed my eyes and covered my ears against the wail of the sirens while sending my heart from the harbor on board one of those ships?
Putting on My Face
Facing the mirror, I put on my face Apply a thin layer of makeup But not like usual this time, not like each night Tonight, I become an adolescent boy! A fifteen-year-old boy's shirt and blazer A fifteen-year-old boy's slacks Strangely enough, they fit me well I become a boy just before his beard comes in This bet I wager takes hardly any cash Not even as dangerous as a bet I suppose Secretly switch jack for queen And all is well, no one will know (Repaint a rusty boat and at the right time The launching ceremony will commence All eyes on deck focused on the bow) No longer will I envy any man or woman I do not need perfume or pistols Just think and I can be Concrete woman Or abstract man The night grows long Preparations done, I am ready to go Among people who are Neither husband nor lover Farewell, unfamiliar adolescent in the mirror Until that boyish dawn one step this side of man
The mirror is always slightly taller than I It laughs a moment after I laugh Turning red as a boiled crab I cut myself from the mirror with shears
Putting on My Face
Facing the mirror, I put on my face
Apply a thin layer of makeup
But not like usual this time, not like each night
Tonight, I become an adolescent boy!
A fifteen-year-old boy's shirt and blazer
A fifteen-year-old boy's slacks
Strangely enough, they fit me well
I become a boy just before his beard comes in