Ryoichi Wago

Silent Salute of Poetry

[excerpt] Silent Salute of Poetry [excerpt]

Translated by Koichiro Yamauchi and Steve Redford

March 11th. Shinchi Station. Its bare face was attacked by a tsunami.

Shinchi Station. Like other stations, it has carried lives, connected hearts, spun the time.

April 24th. The view toward Soma City is perfectly clear.  Have we seen such a blue sky since the quake? Since then, no.

Blue sky, have you forgotten all about the quake?

What lies deep in the blue sky?  The bottom of the warm ocean? The Blue brothers. The sky and ocean.

What grave face did the station put on to greet our lives? What gentle look did it give us when it guaranteed our departures and returns? What solemn expression did it have when it saw off the beginning and met the ending of each day? The station’s name was Shinchi Station.

Running like the wind across the springtime countryside and mountain fields. Because the plants, the flowers are sprouting, budding, the thin tips of twigs are inviting the season.  Feeling the breathing of storm, light, and clouds. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is resounding. I’m a speeding conductor.

What’s a silent salute?  What’s a silent salute of poetry? Whizzing over the mountain fields, over the countryside, across the bottom of the blue sky, my mind turns furiously. What’s the meaning of a silent salute? What does it mean for poetry to salute silently? The storm, the light and the clouds. A break in the clouds. A deer’s cry.

What does the bridge try to connect from this shore to that shore?  What does the bridge try to convey from this shore to that shore? What does the bridge try to bring from that shore to this shore? Crossing a bridge, crossing a bridge…

Chasing the light. Chasing the wolf-shaped light. Chasing the wind-shaped light. Chasing the road-shaped light.  Chasing the light shaped like you. The light shaped like the heart is dazzling. Chasing the light shaped like paddies and fields. Chasing the world-shaped light. Embracing (in my arms) the prayer-shaped light.  The spring blue sky.

Nobody’s here, an attendant-less platform. A nobody’s-here, attendant-less platform. Shinchi Station, a nobody’s-here, attendant-less platform.

The railroad track, ignoring the real rail, is bent. Where does it lead? Where does it return? The bent track is seeking an entirely different destination.

On an attendant-less platform, the silhouette of no man. Everyone stares at a destination. Going to Sendai? Iwaki? Everyone stares at a destination. All destinations are entirely different.

The track is winding around the station. Around the station, the track is winding. It’s the first time I’ve seen the track winding around the station.  A first-time spectacle. A white dragon.

A god, embodied in a train, passed by? A devil, embodied in a train, passed by?  The present, feverish moment passed by?  The destination of a lost track, the destination of a lost train, the destination of a lost wind. The wind blows fiercely.

The platform I never got off at.  Standing there now, I realized one thing. Stepping down, the wind in my face, the sound of the waves in my ears, I realized…

A tsunami has come.

A Blue Note record was on the platform at Shinchi Station. How many times was this Jazz record played, spun? How many times did you spin it, play it?

A tilting utility pole is saluting silently.

Did the station quit as a station? The station did quit as a station. The station, too, repents. The station, too, is full of regret. The station, too, has lost itself.

An electric fan has fallen over.  The wind is gone. A silent salute.

Good night.

Editors’ Notes

"Silent Salute of Poetry" is one of Wago Ryoichi’s serial poems written after the Tohoku Earthquake on March 11th, 2011. Like another of Wago’s major serial poems, "Pebbles of Poetry," these pieces were first published on Twitter. Although a substantial portion of "Silent Salute of Poetry" was collected into a book by Shincho-sha last June, the work is still in progress. All photographs were taken by the poet.

Ryoichi Wago

Ryoichi Wago Ryoichi Wago is a Japanese poet who was born in Fukushima in 1968. His first collection of poems, "After," was awarded the 4th Chuya Nakahara Prize in 1998. In 2006, he won the 47th Bansui Prize for "Earth Brain Poems," his fourth collection. Being a high school teacher, he is also known as a lyricist and radio personality. Immediately after the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami occurred in 2011, Wago started to send out a series of poems from/for Fukushima from his Twitter account. Within a few months those pieces were collected under the title, "Pebbles of Poetry" and published simultaneously with his other collections since the quake, namely, "Silent Salute of Poetry" and "Encounter of Poetry." Steve Redford (b.1957) is Professor at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shizuoka University. Among his scholarly writings are “Dreaming of the Feminine in Man: A Reading of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men,” “Ahab, Queequeg, and American Culture: Reading Moby-Dick Post-9/11” and “Ishmael as Cross-Cultural Educator: A Reading of Moby-Dick.” He has recently finished a novel, tentatively titled, "Along the Same Street." Koichiro Yamauchi (b.1969) is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shizuoka University. His scholarly work includes articles on Ezra Pound, Lyn Hejinian and Michael Palmer. He edited and translated "The Particle Rose (2004)," a selection of Palmer’s poems.