Poetry by Nagae Yūki

Paraffin Light

My cheeks are kissed by light
soft as dandelion fluff, enveloping
me in paraffin paper. Thinking
of you and you, sound crumbles
like dry leaves–para para
para para–then the distant
intimation of weeping–hara hara
hara hara–rain falling
with the aroma of falling
light, evanescent, disappearing
into morning mist.

Whenever you flash across
my mind, I feel static
electricity’s spark. You will stay
missing from my life and even
the sound of our laughing voices
will fade in time, but I wrap sepia-
toned fragments with my palms.
Memories echo back like light
crumbling and disappearing.
Moisten my dry lips, let me
croon you back to life.

For even if we never meet again,
I wish you prismatic tender luminosity.
To each and every one of you,
I bequeath blessings of echoing
rice-paper thin falling light.

Moët & Chandon

What I have done?
There was no other way.
What haven’t I done?
Also no other way.
I convince myself: no choice.
I turn what I find impossible
to discard liquid, tint memories
amber. They turn into innumerable
rising bubbles that drift apart
like bodies in space, blaming
me for what I should have done.

I was born because I was beloved
by the world and breathe gold
bright breath, so why am I hemmed
by loneliness? In time, all our dreams
thin out, turn translucent, cellophane,
effervescence to sip and to swallow.

I know this, but . . .


Nagae Yūki

Nagae Yūki (永方佑樹)'s first collection, Monosabishi no hana ("Lonesome Flowers"), received the 2012 Poetry and Thought Newcomer’s Award. Her most recent collection, √3 (2016), employs the language of trigonometry along with images from the worlds of geology, chemistry, and machinery. She studied classical Japanese literature at Keio University. English translations of her work have appeared in Tokyo Poetry Journal, U.S.-Japan Women's Journal, and Vestiges. She has recently been invited to Finland (Lahti Poetry Marathon, 2017), Taiwan (Asian Poetry Festival, 2017), the United States (The University of Iowa's “Japanese Poetry Now," 2018), and Tokyo (Summer Seminar Event 2018: The Institute for World Literature of Harvard University) for readings and poetry installation performances, which frequently involve collaborations with dancers, nature, original sound, and video art. She is developing this off-page poetic work around a concept she calls “Steric Poetry.”

Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar has published or edited over a dozen books and chapbooks of poetry, including the Muse India award-winning Tamil translations of 9th century poet/saint, Andal, The Autobiography of a Goddess; the 2011 National Poetry Review Prize winner, Deepening Groove; and the 2005 Finalist for the Connecticut Book Awards, Instrumentality. Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he edited W.W. Norton’s Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond, called “a beautiful achievement for world literature” by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. He has won a Pushcart Prize and a Glenna Luschei Award from Prairie Schooner, and been featured in such venues as The New York Times, The Paris Review, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He's appeared as a commentator on the BBC, the PBS Newshour, and National Public Radio, received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and the Corporation of Yaddo, and has taught and performed his work around the world, including at Columbia University, City University of Hong Kong, and Fairfield University. Founding editor of Drunken Boat, one of the world's oldest online journals, he holds a research fellowship from the University of Sydney and his Many Uses of Mint: New and Selected Poems 1997-2017 has just been published with Recent Works Press.

Copyright (c) Nagae Yūki, 2016. English translation copyright (c) Ravi Shankar, 2019.