Poetry by Jun Tsuji

ABSOLUTE

Overthrow; unrest; existential parody;
obnoxious, inappropriate guffawing; slut leukocytes;
camel dumb head–electric panther injection,

scavenging for butts on the seafloor–worn,
*********torn
*********rumblings.  Burn
the lacquered red atman sketches–
*********songs of moths, congratulatory
*********ditties–package
and mail the ashes to ____.  Wheezing
of mechanical respirators, ligatured, spread
*********eagled on _____ racks.

___ the conmen’s heads!–their tongues: festering,
*********inflamed
*********lunatic blue: acidize their palsied

*********nerves–dogs, who ____, and fake

grin-stuck candor.

Tangent point is the tangent point.

Carve the ellipse on the infinity canvas,

(rotate).  Then, rotate again.

(“Life of a Wastrel”, summed at his toes in a lake of drool.)

Ess                 Ess                  Ess                    Ess
Craterous    Coarseness    Coarse-ness    Ness

PISTONS YAWNING, don’t touch!–

*********tin sheets softer than teats, bluish-white blood
flowing from tips–slowing to
*********a drip,
dripping   dripping   ping   ping

RED MOON, grinning (staccato): gnawing on

*********rabies warm dog-corpses.

Eyes of OWL–more

*********magnificent
*********than obsidian–cold

bodies hung by purpled
ankles–fluyts

aired by brutish winds–

darkness……a gaping.

(1924)

DARKNESS STEW

is something I have never tasted,

but, if I had to guess, it tastes something like this–

Students, let us refer to the children’s
*********song sung thura to

****************thura in Ancient
Greece

to herald the appearance of the swallows:

 *********Come out,                     
****************spring has arrived! 
           
 *********Open the gynaikon windows! 
           
 *********Swallows fly in blue skies!
 
 *********See the black plumes, their
 *********snow-white breasts.
 
 *********Open the pantry and give us treats,
 
                        ******honor their coming
 *********with liquor in flask,
 *********cheese in basket,
 *********oat and wheat bread.
           
 *********Make offerings!–
 
 *********Will you?
 *********Or shall we leave?
           
 *********Don’t make us wait–
           
 *********If you don’t want to share,
                       
                        ******don’t–

 *********We’ll tear off the doors and take what we wish–
           
                        ******Simple to do,
           
 *********Brittle ladies.
           
 *********Open up!  Make offerings! 
 
 *********The swallows are here!
           
 *********We are children,
           
 *********not old men.

NEXT, a recitation of an Arthur Symons poem,

 *********The Wanderer’s Song–

 *********I have had enough of women,
                        ******and enough of love,
 *********But the land waits, and the sea waits,
                        ******and day and night is enough;
 *********Give me a long white road,
                        ******and the grey wide path of the sea.
 *********And the wind’s will and the bird’s will,
                        ******and the heart-ache still in me.

 *********Why should I seek out sorrow,
                        ******and give gold for Strife?
 *********I have loved much and wept much,
                        ******but tears and love are not life;
 *********The grass calls to my heart,
                        ******and the foam to my blood cries up,
 *********And the sun shines and the road shines,
                        ******and the wine’s in the cup.

 *********I have had enough of wisdom,
                        ******and enough of mirth,
 *********For the way’s one and the end’s one,
                        ******and it’s soon to the ends of the earth;
 *********And it’s then good-night and to bed,
                        ******and if heels or heart ache,
 *********Well, it’s sound sleep and long sleep,
                        ******and sleep too deep to wake.”

In Vaudeville, there is a tradition called the burlesque pastiche.

In Nagasaki, there is a dish called shippoku.

 *********Despite this similarity, it is foolish to assume a relation to dada
poetry.

If I chew beef and mackerel-jerky together, I generally seem able       *********to tell them apart,

 *********and whether the mix is delicious or atrocious.

Bourgeoisie – Prolétariat = 0.

Fingering the top and bottom beads of the abacus–
an envelope of lonely space forms a round us

 *********, here;–

…let us head to the night fair…

anywhere;–but herein

consecutive infinities.

(1923)

PROLOGUE TO “THE THEATRE OF PLEASURE”

Therefore, Dada equals Spinozan dreams, humming

 *********“The Tune to the River Yalu”[1],

falling for the Rat Snake Princess (the town

 *********whore he fucks).

Asakusa–cloud hat pagoda[2], column

of flames: from the

ashes, grass-scented La Variété
 *********d’épicure
is born, heavy with the
sorrow attendant upon

 *********the flux of all things,

the beating of castanets, tambourines–

Children with lipstick, powdered faces!

Ignore the holes in your socks!
Bless the testicles and lips of the boys incanting
 *********Panta Rhei[3], Panta
Rhei!–

Origin of Vaudeville: dubious, dubitable tease.

Don’t eat the low-brow dumplings!
Don’t worship the rags of the daughters of the bourgeoisie! 

King of Babylonia, Sardanapalus[4], limp in his den of iniquity.

Bury The Imperial Theatre and The Yurakuza Cinema[5] in the outermost
 *********moat of The Imperial Palace,
 *********erect a new Folly Variété! 

HARUKICHI KUROSE[6], pimp of ideals, ever
 *********plotting a workers’ strike,
conceived the insane phantasm of Variété in a dream–
 *********…drinking the piss (of Utako Tachibana[7]).

In opium dyed purple robes befitting a king,
 *********vomiting up his __ cutlet, the demented
sex fiend debuted on stage at The Theatre of Pleasure

(his “art-market” status would never match his cachet as public spectacle).

As the Bowl and Tinplate “Peace Exhibition” slurps the brackish waters of   *********Benten[8] Pond,

even his comedy routine–

  *********flying a sail from a seafarer’s ass, pants pockets leaking–

cannot match the farce-aesthetics of OUR “Theatre of Pleasure”.

Straddling the Great Elephant of Nihility, sniffing a poison
 *********crimson lily,

Sardanapalus!

Moon-lit games (with thou loyal pierrot), as a
 *********puckish träumerei plays a round
in your old bamboo-flute–play!

 *********In the dusky
 *********bowels of his heart, in the refrigerated cage
 *********of her chest,

 *********a reddish tune is set ablaze.

To the victims of boredom and despair–

 *********“The puppet, in unkindly fate, knows for
 *********a moment’s spark, what it is to be
 *********a tomato–”

(In the original draft, “to be” had been “to be hungry for”.)

Deranged pack of wolves!
 ********* ********* ******Drum on the kerosene cans!
Raise the curtains!

Hush!  Shush!

(1922)

*

Notes

[1] Popular song in the Taishō era (1912-1926), first sung by Japanese rafters working away from home on the Yalu River (also known as Amnok River) on the border between China and Korea.

[2] Referring to Ryōunkaku (opened 1890), Japan’s first Western-style skyscraper.  Designed in the late 1880s by British expatriate W.K. Burton, shortly after his arrival in Japan at the invitation of the Meiji Government, the much admired building, standing twelve stories tall, was built of red brick and wood and equipped with electricity. In 1923, it was so severely damaged in the Great Kantō Earthquake that the standing remains were demolished.

[3] “Everything flows,” –Heraclitus.

[4] Legendary last king of Assyria, who, according to Roman-era Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus, lived a life of such insatiable decadence that it led to the downfall of Assyria circa 7th century BC. Eating and drinking with swinish gusto at every meal, he slew on a whim anyone who slighted him, and dressed as would a queen, keeping close an entourage of male and female concubines with whom he openly fornicated. In the last days of the kingdom, as hordes of invaders and torrential rains converged on the capital of Nineveh, he composed an epitaph to himself in glory of sensuality, then had a capacious pyre constructed–of palace treasures and other fineries–in which he ordered himself and his servants to be burned mid-orgy.

[5] Historic movie theatres in Yūrakuchō, the neighborhood of The Imperial Palace.

[6] Socialist labor leader, futurist. Date of birth and death unknown.

[7] Vaudeville performer, 1897-1964.

[8] Goddess of arts and wisdom.

Bios

Jun Tsuji

Jun Tsuji (1884-1944) was born in Tokyo, Japan. He was a writer of essays, poetry, and plays; sometime stage actor and anarchist political activist; a street-performing flutist and translator (of, among others, Oscar Wilde, Thomas de Quincey, and, most notably, Max Stirner). He taught English at a girls academy and was briefly married to his former student, Noe Itō (1895-1923, writer, feminist, anarchist), who birthed him two sons in a relationship that had cost him his teaching post. Unable to find another job, Tsuji commenced his famed “performance” life of drunken vagabondage, writing and publishing prolifically, posting signboards around Asakusa that read “Jun Tsuji, Professor of Violin, Shakuhachi, and English,” busking with his flute and sermonizing in the streets, and cultivating around himself a league of vagrants, laborers, and rebel intellectuals. In 1944, at the height of the economic slump of late World War II, after being in and out of hospitals for a variety of physical and mental ailments, Jun Tsuji died of starvation in a friend’s apartment, where he had been living.

Ryan Choi

Ryan Choi's translations of Jun Tsuji's poetry mark his debut as a writer and translator. He holds a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and also studied Japanese language and literature at Sophia University in Tokyo, and at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa in Honolulu, where he was born, raised, and currently lives. He is a composer and musician as well. To learn more about his work, visit ryanckchoi.com.

English translation copyright (c) Ryan Choi, 2017.