Shuntaro Tanikawa, “Twenty Billion Light Years of Loneliness”


Mankind on a little globe
Sleeps, awakes and works
Wishing at times to be friends with Mars.

Martians on a little globe
Are probably doing something; I don’t know what
(Maybe sleep-sleeping, wear-wearing, or fret-fretting)
While wishing at times to be friends with Earth
This is a fact I’m sure of.

This thing called universal gravitation
Is the power of loneliness pulling together.

The universe is distorted
So all join in desire.

The universe goes on expanding
So all feel uneasy.

At the loneliness of twenty billion light years
Without thinking, I sneezed.

– – –

Oh my. I seem to be quite obsessed with Mr. Tanikawa’s poetry right now. But you just read that, so I’m sure you must be too now. What a beautiful little work of art there. If there’s one thing Japanese poets can do, perhaps better than anyone, it’s jump light-quick between the profound and the absurd so that you hardly notice until you’re laughing your ass off, or crying. Perhaps its because the Japanese poets figured out long ago that the profound and the absurd are the same thing, or on two sides of the same coin at the very least. Consider this: the same Shuntaro Tanikawa who wrote this, and the poem I posted earlier, and whose poems I will continue to post, this Tanikawa also translates Peanuts into Japanese for the newspapers there. Peanuts! Yes! Charles Schultz! Translated by Japan’s most well-read and well-respected poet! I mean, isn’t that just…just beautiful? So profoundly absurd? If you don’t think so, well, then there’s nothing more I can do for you.

Shuntaro Tanikawa, “Evening”
Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

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