To a Woman in Her Home

after Kotaro Takamura

The compass of my heart’s monsoon aligns itself
With you, my love.
And the night’s cold slips beneath its
Aquamarine shell.
While you, love, sleep peacefully there in your home.

You sleep with the trust of a child asleep, a truth
Transparent and pure,
That banishes the heart of darkness.

Virtue, baseness, all are unveiled before you.
Surely, to one whose transcendent judgement,
Child-like clarity, discerned
A worthiness in this, my unworthy life.
How to fathom what you saw in me?
All I know is that your certainty
Transfigured me to joy,
Engendered faith that what you saw,
That unknown me, could be
Real, here in the flesh.

The leaves from the zelkova elms have fallen.
The night is hushed.

And now my heart’s monsoon begins its course
To you, my love,
Like an extravagant, artesian spring
Gently swelling from its subterranean lair
To drench you, every inch of you, your skin.

And as you stir, this vasculation
Surges, swirls, revels,
And encompasses you,
My love, my font of life.

While you, love, sleep;
Sleep through the night’s cold trespass;
Sleep peacefully there in your home;
With the trust of a child,
You sleep.


  1. The Chieko poems trace the Japanese artist Kotaro Takamura's life with Chieko Naganuma, an iconoclastic woman artist - their attraction, separation, marriage, his coming to terms with her illness and death, and the power of love.

    One of my projects to interpret these poems through the sensibilities of a poet, and to complement the translation work done by talented scholars such as Leanne Ogasawara, Paul Archer and John G. Peters.

    Short link -

    I'd also like to take this opportunity to ask those who can to help the Red Cross relief effort for the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami...

    • US - Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10
    • Canada - Text ASIA to 30333 to donate $5

  2. I really like this! I like that his love is like a monsoon. He IS defined by her affection.

  3. So transfigurating is this poem in message, style, and rhythm. It has the feel of a classic. This is poetry writing at it's best. National Poetry Month (April) is producing a bumper crop of great poetry from you Sam, and the month is still young. We eagerly await to see what the full harvest shall bring.

  4. Are you translating directly from the original Japanese poetry? Or are you interpreting from someone's english translation? Just curious. :)


  5. I can do a basic translation, but don't have any mastery that can only come from experience.

    Leanne Ogasawara - a friend and a lifelong and talented translator - has kindly provided me with her own translations (many as of this writing unpublished, but forthcoming in her own book). She has been instrumental in encouraging me to use hers and other work as starting points for my interpretations.

    I'm also acquainted with the other major translators I've mentioned above - Paul Archer and Jack Peters - as introduced to me by Leanne.

    But it's with Leanne that I interact a lot, and beyond just the translations. For example, I'll consult her if I don't quite understand the historical context of a specific phrase, and she'll put me straight. In those cases, because I'm not constrained by an exact translation, I can refer to that context in my interpretation, for the benefit of everyday readers, even though it may not be in the original poem.

    Also, in some cases my interpretation may differ quite aggressively from the straight translation - and I look to her as a trusted reference to tell me if I have still captured the essence, the intent, of the original.

  6. Thank you for explaining, Samuel. I am enjoying the Cheiko poems as well as your other work. :)

  7. With 'Time Zones' and 'Helium', this is one of three poems which have been included in the arts and literary journal, The Poetry Tree. My thanks to Renée Sigel, publisher and managing editor, and the staff at The Poetry Tree for allowing me to be a part of their journey.

  8. Exquisite imagery here, Sam-- very beautiful, as ever. xxxxj


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