Life Sentences

after Kotaro Takamura

Winter blares in from the road with me, an icy radio
Blast. I hang my coat, leaving in its inner pocket

Creditors’ papers, promissory notes, lots drawn
Against my few possessions, sculptures, sketches;

They would see them seized from me, trammel these
Remnants of my soul in glass encasements, bars;

The carver’s craft, the lithographer’s ecstasy of creation,
Swallowed by the world’s usurious maw.

Unaware, you smile. Imprisoned as you are under this
Pauper’s roof, amid wood whittlings, molded clay, you

Smile. As I unwrap this evening’s meal, red snapper,
Its simmered warmth dimming in my frigid breath.


  1. An adaptation of one of Kotaro Takamura's poems, 'One Who Imprisons Beauty', written for his wife Chieko, from a celebrated collection that evidences the power of love over a descent into madness, and even death.

    As always, my hope is that this effort will complement the work of talented translators such as Leanne Ogasawara, Paul Archer and John G. Peters, and help introduce Takamura and his celebrated poems to more readers.

    Short link -

  2. very cool def captures a bit of reality for many right now...the trapped under the paupers roof....i am glad she smiles anyway...that is def important...

  3. Thanks Brian, she smiles... but she herself is imprisoned, at the choice of the protagonist not to 'imprison' his art. That's one of the conundrums of the poem.

  4. Stuck in a cage of ones own doing, or of life's doing. Sometimes is just ends up that way, the case for many indeed. But all one can do is smile and push through, great verse.

  5. I didn't know of Takamura's writings but have followed a link to Paul Archer's translations. I am very impressed with his works. Thank you for the introduction and I love your adaptation...she was unaware of his travails...and offered a smile...poignant.

  6. Clever write - clever in all the best ways. I thoroughly enjoyed its tightness and its methodical construction.

  7. so many seem to be suffering like this right have given them a voice through your work..

  8. "Swallowed by the world's usurious maw." A marvelous line, and much more sophisticated than many adaptations from other languages. I despair at some translations of Neruda, for they never catch his sultry essence. In this case, the Chieko poems are new to me, and so I am happy to become acquainted with a new poet, under the guidance of... a true believer. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I am honored. Amy Barlow Liberatore

  9. Anonymous9:06:00 AM

    Lovely. K


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