A Song of Us

after Kotaro Takamura

(A penny arcade show, a child’s flip book, a puppet play)

In the northern Michinoku
Is the town of Nihonmatsu,

In this village is a building
Made of brick as red as wine.

One day from this fermented dream
A girl, a spirit of wine, takes flight,

Finds her way to these unworthy
Waiting arms at Kichijoji.

Fire, fire, fire! Kichijoji’s burning!
Fire, fire, fire! How this heart is burning!

And all the Abukama river’s
Flow can never douse these flames.

Water and fire, you and I,
Our wine, our love, our nursery rhyme.


  1. It feels like a haiku in so many ways... vivid.

    Loved it!


  2. As anyone who has attempted a direct translation of Kotaro Takamura's 'Karakuri Uta', the poem is particularly difficult to place in an English context. As such, I have departed significantly from the original in my adaptation, to provide - in my opinion - a closer approximation to the tonal and metaphorical intent.

    As always, my hope is that this effort will complement the translation work done by talented scholars such as Leanne Ogasawara, Paul Archer and John G. Peters, and help introduce Takamura - and his celebrated poems to his wife Chieko - to more readers.

    Short link - http://bit.ly/s4songofus


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